Ban Ki-Moon and the Age of Sustainnable Development

June 27, 2011

Ban Ki-moon and the Age of Sustainable Development

By Jeffery D. Sachs

The world can breathe easier with the reelection this month of United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to a second term in office. In a fractious world, global unity is especially vital.

During the past five years, Ban Ki-moon has embodied that unity, both in his unique personal diplomacy and in his role as head of this indispensable global organization.

Winning re-election to lead the UN is no straightforward matter. As head of an organization of 192 member states, the Secretary-General inevitably feels the powerful crosscurrents of global divisions. On almost any issue, the Secretary-General is likely to find himself between contending groups of countries. Yet Ban has inspired global confidence in his leadership to the point of securing an uncontested and unanimous second mandate.

The consensus in favor of Ban’s re-election is all the more striking because it includes the so-called P-5, the five permanent members of the UN Security Council – the United States, the United Kingdom, China, France, and Russia. These five powerful countries owe their UN pre-eminence to the post-World War II settlement, when they were allies in victory. Under the UN Charter, all five must endorse the election of every Secretary-General. Ban Ki-moon has maintained the strong backing of all five permanent members.

I have the honor to serve as the Secretary-General’s Special Adviser on the Millennium Development Goals. In that capacity, I see the Secretary-General in action in all parts of the world. It is a rewarding experience, one that gives me great hope for ultimate success in resolving global problems such as poverty, environmental threats, and violent conflict.

The world’s many problems make their way to the Secretary-General’s office day and night. Whether the issues are war and peace; revolutions and coups; natural disasters; epidemics; disputed elections; or the grinding challenges of hunger, poverty, climate change, and mass migration, the crises inevitably demand the Secretary-General’s attention. It is a workload that boggles the mind, and demands the round-the-clock commitment of the Secretary-General and his team.

During a recent trip with Ban to Egypt and Tunisia, I watched in awe as he deftly backed the democratic changes underway in those two countries while simultaneously dealing with many other upheavals in the region. Ban generously and inspiringly offered his support to the brave youth leaders in both countries who are at the forefront of the political changes set in motion this year.

From his first days in office, Ban emphasized that many or most of the world’s greatest challenges come down to a simple yet stark reality: we are now a crowded, interconnected, global society, with seven billion people struggling to find a foothold on a highly vulnerable planet. The challenges of feeding the world, keeping it safe from epidemic diseases such as malaria and AIDS, and combining economic progress with local and global environmental safety are the defining challenges of our time. War and violence often have as underlying causes hunger, poverty, and environmental degradation, such as human-induced climate change.

We are, in short, in a new global era, which may be defined as the Age of Sustainable Development, in which our security, even our survival, will depend on the world forging a triple commitment: to end extreme poverty; to ensure human rights for all; and to protect the natural environment from human-induced crises of climate change, destruction of biodiversity, and depletion of fresh-water reserves and other vital resources. Ban has tirelessly emphasized the need to put sustainable development at the center of our thinking.

The challenges of poverty, resource depletion, climate change, and human rights will dominate Ban’s second term, and the work of those who will follow him as Secretary-General. In 2012, world governments will reunite in Rio de Janeiro, 20 years after the historic conference at which they signed the first comprehensive treaty to fight human-induced climate change. Far too little has been accomplished since, and, behind the scenes, Ban is working relentlessly to clear the bottlenecks and avert climate disaster.

At the start of the third millennium, Ban’s predecessor, Kofi Annan, brought the world’s leaders together to adopt the Millennium Development Goals, which established ambitious targets to be achieved in the fight against poverty, hunger, and disease by 2015. Ban has been a tireless champion of the MDGs, and has initiated several highly creative campaigns to enlarge worldwide engagement with them.

This past year, for example, Ban launched a bold new global initiative, “Every Mother, Every Child,” to improve health care for women and children. He has championed the fight against HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, and malaria, bringing many global leaders and public figures to the cause. Under Ban’s leadership, remarkable progress is being made, though as he emphasizes, even faster progress is both possible and needed. In 2015, the Secretary-General will help guide the world towards even bolder commitments in the fight to end extreme poverty and deprivation in the coming two decades.

There is a great personal satisfaction in Ban’s own story, one that gives hope for all. When Ban travels to Africa’s impoverished regions, he mingles with villagers and recounts his own upbringing amid the poverty and deprivation of Korea in the 1950’s – and how, by committing itself to hard work, education, modern science, and shared values, South Korea became one of the world’s richest and most successful countries.

Ban’s rise from poverty to global leadership parallels his country’s trajectory. It is a story of decency, commitment, and generosity that has won global confidence, and that can help to guide the world at a time of unprecedented risks and unique opportunities.

Jeffrey D. Sachs is Professor of Economics and Director of the Earth Institute at Columbia University. He is also Special Adviser to United Nations Secretary-General on the Millennium Development Goals.

Copyright: Project Syndicate, 2011.

Dato T Conviction, Anti-BERSIH 2.0 and Datuk Seri Judin: The Hoaxes

June 26, 2011

Dato T Conviction, Anti-BERSIH 2.0 and Datuk Seri Judin: The Hoaxes

by Din Merican

On Friday 24th June, the mainstream media played to the hilt the fact that the “Datuk T” Trio- Datuk Shazryl Eskay Abdullah, Datuk Shuib Lazim and Tan Sri Rahim Thamby Chik–were charged in the magistrate’s court over the public lunch time screening of a sex video at the Seri Makmur Room of Carcosa Seri Negara Hotel on March 21. The purpose of the video was to eliminate the opposition leader, Dato Seri Anwar Ibrahim.

The media slant was orchestrated to show that the Police and A-G Gani Patail had acted without fear or favour. The mainstream media screamed that this proves that there is Rule of Law in Malaysia. Ketua Pemuda UMNO, Khairy Jamaluddin, went on air that this absolved Barisan Nasional (BN) and UMNO from any involvement in the sex video scandal.

Datuk Shazryl Eskay Abdullah and Datuk Shuib Lazim pleaded guilty to public screening of pornography under Section 292 (A) read with Section 34 of the Penal Code which carried a three years’ jail term. However, they were fined just RM3,500 and RM1,500 respectively. Whereas, former Melaka Chief Minister Rahim pleaded guilty to abetting them and was fined RM1,000.

It was unusual that during reading the statement of facts for the accused who have already pleaded guilty, Senior DPP Dato’ Kamaludin Said, who is the Head of Special Projects in the AG’s Chambers, sought to entertain the public to pornography in court when the sex video was again screened, but this time under the cloak of protection of the law. The Bar Council and legal fraternity frowned at this strange occurrence. But Deputy PM, Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin, instead slammed the Bar Council. It is shameful that a Deputy PM, who takes pride in his ulama family background, should support public pornography to desecrate the honour of our courts. But then these are perplexing times.

The prosecution even agreed with the defence led by Dato’ Seri Muhammad Shafee Abdullah that the video was genuine and that the man was Anwar. As a fait accompli and in his mitigating submissions, Datuk Seri Shafee said that a video forensic report conducted by Professors Hany Farid and Lorenzo Torresani of Dartmouth College in the United States where a facial recognition analysis concluded that “About 99.99% of the similarities showed that Mr X (man in the video) is Anwar Ibrahim.”

Now, it becomes clear why Dato Kamaludin Said, Head of Special Projects in the A-G’s Chambers led this prosecution and not Dato Tun Majid who is the Head of the Prosecution Division. This was indeed a special project! The objective was none other than to ensure that the A-G Chambers could introduce irrelevant and prejudicial evidence to be admitted and become part of the court records. The objective was clear when Rahim Thamby Chik told reporters “It is a mission accomplished today and we are very happy that we have proven this to the people through the judicial system of the country.”

What will happen next is that Anwar Ibrahim, who lodged a police report that he was not the man in the sex video, will now be charged for lodging a false report under s. 182 of the Penal Code:

s182. “Whoever gives to any public servant any information orally or in writing which he knows or believes to be false, intending thereby to cause, or knowing it to be likely that he will thereby cause, such public servant to use the lawful power of such public servant to the injury or annoyance of any person, or to do or omit anything which such public servant ought not to do or omit if the true state of facts respecting which such information is given were known by him, shall be punished with imprisonment for a term which may extend to six months or with fine which may extend to two thousand ringgit or with both.”

The objective is not so much to convict Anwar by that charge but to drag this smearing campaign through GE 13. The Prosecution will rely on the court records in this case to show that Anwar had been found to be “99.9%” the man in the video and thus his police report was untrue or false. To the legally trained mind, there is no value to a foreign forensic report in which the maker of that report is not subjected to cross-examination.

But, this is a Special Project by AG Chambers coordinated by that brilliant legal mind, Dato Seri Shafee Abdullah. Shafee is cleverly calculated that all that rule of evidence can be bypassed when the Trio pleaded guilty and the court admitted the “evidence” without calling the maker. In actual fact, Dato’ Kamaludin Said was just there to ensure that the young Magistrate, Aizatul Akmal Maharani, will pass the “pre-agreed” sentence. This was to be the young magistrate’s test before he takes on something bigger. On July 4, this young magistrate will act as Coroner in the Inquest of Ahmad Sarbani’s death. So, the public can now anticipate what will happen in that Inquest.

A great hoax has just been pulled against the Malaysian public in this all out war against the opposition indicating how close GE 13. Any dissenting views will be regarded as anti-government  and a threat to national security.

The same modus operandi against Anwar Ibrahim is now being used to malign Dato’ Ambiga Sreenevasan over the BERSIH Rally scheduled on July 9.

Dato Ambiga maligned

In today’s Utusan Malaysia, the Malay Muslim sentiment is being fanned to portray Dato’ Ambiga as being anti-Malay and anti-Islam. As much racial and religious hatred are being generated, that it is being done by a mainstream media is shameful. Such scurrilous attacks against civil society and civil liberties movements can only show the government’s fear that street rallies in the Middle-East which had toppled several oppressive Arab governments will be replicated in Malaysia.

It is alarming that BERSIH’s simple demands for a clean and fair elections can be viewed as subversive and anti-national. The following are BERSIH’s demands:

  • 1. Clean the electoral roll, which is marred with irregularities such as deceased persons and    multiple persons registered under a single address or non-existent addresses. In the longer term,  BERSIH 2.0 also calls for the EC to implement an automated voter registration system upon  eligibility to reduce irregularities.
  •  2. Reform postal ballot, to ensure that all citizens of Malaysia, residing in or out of the country, are able to exercise their right to vote.
  •  3. Use of indelible ink to reduce voter fraud.
  •  4. Minimum 21 days campaign period to allow voters more time to gather information and deliberate on their choices. The first national elections in 1955 under the British Colonial Government had a campaign period of 42 days but the campaign period for 12th GE in 2008 was a mere 8 days.
  • 5. Free and fair access to media, where all media agencies, especially state-funded media agencies  such as Radio and Television Malaysia (RTM) and Bernama allocate proportionate and  objective coverage for all potlical parties.
  •  6. Strengthen public institutions to act independently and impartially in upholding the rule of law and democracy. Public institutions such as the Judiciary, Attorney-General, Malaysian Anti-  Corruption Agency (MACC), Police and the EC must be reformed to uphold laws and protect human rights.
  • 7. Stop corruption, and take serious action against ALL allegations of corruption, including vote  buying.
  • 8. Stop dirty politics, as citizens and voters are not interested in gutter politics; we are interested in policies that affect the nation.

Instead of considering BERSIH’s 8 demands as urgent national issues which are part and parcel of a rakyat’s movement to bring about a better reformed electoral processes, laws and policies to advance the democratic process in Malaysia for all, the authorities consider these demands as a national threat. UMNO and BN  have demonized BERSIH and regard it as part of the opposition movement.

I have received so many sms and messages to say that there will be a nationwide arrests against leaders of MCLM, BERSIH and other NGOs, all on the pretext of maintaining public peace and security. That is why you see PERKASA and UMNO Youth openly declaring that they will also bring their supporters to the streets to heighten the sense of alarm and emergency. I am also warned that bloggers  like me and my associates too will be picked up as we have been deemed to be overtly critical of the abuses in our public institutions. It is deplorable that the Police are being used to achieve this political objective.

Something amiss in JKR

While all these are happening, the confusion is enough to mask other problems happening in the government institutions. The Public Works Department (PWD) is facing an administrative crisis as it appears to have two director generals since early May.

Datuk Mohd Noor Yaacob was appointed to be D-G on May 1 but the man he is supposed to have replaced, Datuk Seri Judin Abdul Karim(right), has refused to be removed from his office. Judin had been assigned as Chief Executive of the Construction Industry Development Board (CIDB) — a more junior post. This amounts to a demotion without prior disciplinary action and therefore contravenes the Public Officers (Conduct and Discipline) Regulations 1993.

A legitimate PWD director-general (DG) is crucial because all public works contracts have to be signed by him. The picture becomes clear when we note that in the Economic Transformation Plan (ETP), the amount of government spending on infrastructure is huge.

Word has it that Judin was not supportive of some of these projects, the parties awarded the projects and the pricing of these construction contracts. There is disquiet over the real costs of the new Istana Negara where the public is not told the truth about the actual costs.

These insanities must stop! PM Najib must realize that the public and the world’s attention is already focused on him. He must not react to internal party pressures by singing to the tunes of parochialism and racial sentiments while leaving public administration to fall into further disarray.

Otherwise, the public will regard all his aspirations and slogans for 1Malaysia and the 1MDB Projects as nothing more than public relations hoaxes!

Cynical Displays of Police Power ahead of BERSIH2.0

June 26, 2011

Cynical Displays of Police Power ahead of BERSIH2.0

by Terence Netto@

COMMENT: The Police have now overtaken Ibrahim Ali in turning support for the BERSIH 2.0 march into a going concern among citizens.

Repressive measures they have taken in the past few days are set to make the planned march the object of national attention. That dovetails nicely with what the march’s organisers had in mind when they set out to publicise it weeks ago.

At that point, the organisers had doubts as to whether the second edition of this event, first staged in November 2007, would be the success the inaugural one resoundingly was.

Thanks to the incendiary fulminations of PERKASA’s Ibrahim Ali and the myopia of the Police, the upcoming march has had all the revving-up its organisers could have wished for to make it supersede its predecessor in size and importance.

BERSIH’s organisers must be licking their chops at how their planned event has obtained the assists that a flaming opponent and a maladroit force contrived to render them.

A Re-Enactment of 1987?

Earlier this year, we had a hint that Malaysia may well be a police state, at certain times at least. This was when former prime minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad disclosed that he was opposed to the ISA detentions of October 1987 when more than a hundred opposition politicians and anti-government social activists were held under the draconian law.

The former Inspector-General of Police, Hanif Omar, chimed in to confirm that indeed Mahathir had expressed his misgivings about the police action but the Police had gone ahead nevertheless.

This was a flagrant contravention of the ISA Act which expressly vests the power to detain a person in the Home Minister and not the Police.  The Home Minister in October 1987 was Mahathir. If he had indeed opposed the use of the Act in dealing with the tense situation that prevailed at that time and if detentions had taken place, which was what happened, then Police power had overridden civil authority.

Likewise these days, we are witness to re-enactments of what transpired in 1987. Even before BERSIH has applied for a police permit for their march, the IGP and his deputy have issued public warnings against the legality of the march despite constitutional guarantees of citizens’ right to peaceful assembly.

Worse, the Police, as of yesterday, have begun to arrest political activists in an attempt to preempt the march planned for July 9. Members of Parti Sosialis Malaysia (PSM), in Johor Baru on Friday and in Penang yesterday, have borne the initial brunt of this abuse of police power.

Reports say that the Police detained the PSM activists, who were engaged in legitimate political activity, on grounds that they were canvassing for support for the BERSIH march.

Cynical Display of Police Power

Selective and politically motivated detentions by the force are an old story.  In this instance, however, it is done in the teeth of the authorities’ lethargy in dealing with the purveyors of a widely disseminated video allegedly showing opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim in a transaction with a sex worker. Lassitude on the part of the law enforcers is cynical and staggering.

It also reflects amnesia about the context in which morally awakened citizens are prompted to act in concert in the face of cynical displays of police authority.

It is undeniable that one of the reasons UMNO-BN romped to a landslide victory in the March 2004 general election was that under the newly installed prime minister, Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, the government had on the previous December moved to place police power under scrutiny through the creation of a royal commission on the management of the force.

That decision by Abdullah was widely popular and was instrumental in securing his government a landslide endorsement by the electorate three months later.

Fifteen months after the royal commission was instituted, it made public its recommendations in March 2005. What happened was that PM Abdullah wavered in the face of pressure from vested interests in the force against a key recommendation – the creation of an independent panel to look into public complaints of police misconduct.

In retrospect, it can be said that the administration of Abdullah Badawi entered the start of a precipitous decline in its popularity from its heady heights in March 2004 to its loss of BN’s two-thirds parliamentary majority four years later because of the PM’s waffling on police reform.

Now things have gone beyond the question of prime ministerial vacillation in the face of police power. It is more a case of civil and police authority colluding to shore up each other.

It is in this sense that the BERSIH march is fast becoming a gauge of the extent to which Malaysia has become a quasi-police state in which increasingly illegitimate civil authority and arbitrary police power conspire to repress citizens engaged in the exercise of constitutionally protected rights.

Weekend Entertainment: Only In Malaysia

June 25, 2011

Only In Malaysia


I have no music for this weekend. Frankly, I am no mood for it. In stead, I offer this video clip courtesy Malaysiakini. com, which I titled “Only in Malaysia”. Yes, only in Malaysia, this can happen. A person who is charged in a Malaysian court and fined for showing and distributing a porn video can be allowed to make a statement which amounts to, in my opinion, contempt of court. What Rule of Law are we talking about. Maybe it is this man’s democratic right to be given his day after court.–Din Merican

Is BERSIH 2.0 truly apolitical?

June 25, 2011

Is BERSIH2.0 truly apolitical?

by Athi Shankar@

GEORGE TOWN: Coalition for Free And Fair Elections (BERSIH) will hold its rally for free and fair elections alright. But is the rally on July 9 really apolitical?

BERSIH chief S Ambiga may have said that it was not for PKR supremo Anwar Ibrahim to decide to call off the rally. But some see it as a mere damage control attempt by Ambiga to stop swaying tide of public opinion against the coalition. Anwar also attempted the same by, as usual, blaming the press for misquoting him.

But the fact remains that Anwar did imply to the media he could persuade Ambiga into stopping the rally if UMNO and Barisan Nasional agreed to hold free and fair elections. This raised doubts on the credibility on the coalition’s claim that it was an apolitical rally, solely designed to force the Election Commission (EC) to conduct a free and fair elections.

Penang Gerakan legal and human rights bureau head Baljit Singh said it would be interesting to see who would flank Ambiga when she submits Bersih’s memorandum to the King.

“Are BERSIH leaders or politicians going flank her?” asked the lawyer, who will be at the rally as an observer from the Bar Council.He said Anwar statement that “he can talk it over” has created public perception that Pakatan was wielding strong influence on Ambiga, the former Bar Council president.

Such perception gains validity if one were to refresh memory on Ambiga’s track record on her human rights struggle, if any. Bayan Baru MP Zahrain (right) was blunt when he told FMT that BERSIH 2.0 was a project to suit the whims and fancies of one man – Anwar, the Permatang Pauh MP.

He claimed that the Parliamentary Opposition Leader was fast becoming irrelevant in Malaysian politics due to his personal problems, especially the Sodomy II trial. “He actually trying to divert the mass attention from his case to a public rally,” said Zahrain, who left PKR last year.

BERSIH 2.0 is a sequel to the 2007 Bersih 1.0, which saw a pre-dominantly ethnic Malay crowd seeking free and fair elections. That rally and another mammoth rally by Hindraf in November that year were widely considered as instrumental in inspiring the political tsunami of 2008.

This year, however, the BERSIH rally is expected to have a cosmetic multi-racial outlook with strong participation from ethnic Indians.With Ambiga at helm, these ethnic Indians, who prefer to wear the fashionable multi-racial caps, are likely to throng the Kuala Lumpur city centre to be in the forefront of the rally.

One can notice the campaign by ethnic Indians in the cyber space, including in the social network Facebook, to galvanise their ethnic compatriots to join the rally using Ambiga. Ambiga is being portrayed as ‘Indian Joan of Arc’, ‘Iron Lady’ and a gutsy Indian lady brave enough to stand up against the might of UMNO and Barisan Nasional.

Cyber logos of BERSIH rally are freely exhibited to drum up support. The tactic to woo Indians using Ambiga in a way has worked. Who are those behind this Ambiga promotion and marketing cyber campaign?

Hindraf Makkal Sakti, whose own anti-Interlok campaign early this year failed to capture the imagination of these ethnic Indians, said only a completely naïve novice would say that Pakatan was not behind the rally.

An anti-climax?

PAS deputy president Mohamad Sabu has pledged that about 100,000 PAS supporters will take past the rally. DAP national chairman Karpal Singh said his party would be in full force on the day.

“This clearly shows it would be a Pakatan rally. Mind you, Ambiga would not be able to woo even 10 people for the rally on her own, if not for Pakatan,” argued a Hindraf observer.

The ruling party inevitably is against the rally sensing that it could inspire another electoral uprising against it. Police have refused to issue permit for the rally.

UMNO Youth and Malay supremacist organisation PERKASA have also planned respective rallies at the same venue on the same day. PERKASA already warned the ethnic Chinese stay home on the day. The atmosphere in KL naturally would be at boiling point if all three rallies were allowed as emotions could run high.

Some observers believe that the authorities would take non-comprising pre-emptive actions to halt these rallies, like the tactic deployed to foil Hindraf’s pre-planned anti-Interlok rally on February 27. For all the hoo-hah going on now, it could just turn out to be an anti-climax ending for the Bersih drama.

But Parti Kesejahteraan Insan Tanah Air (KITA) Penang information bureau head Dalbinder Singh said the government should allow the BERSIH rally. On the other hand, he wants the police to take strong action on PERKASA leaders for issuing seditious statement and threats.He called on Putrajaya administration to address points raised by BERSIH for a free and fair election.

The EC has said it was willing to meet up with BERSIH representatives on the matter and Dalbinder said it should not be a public eyewash.

“BERSIH demands will strengthen and improve the transparency of Malaysians election system,” he said. Among BERSIH’s demands are introduction of indelible ink to prevent multiple voting, abolishment of postal voting, revision of voting roll and fair access for all political parties to state-owned media during campaign.

But Zahrain rubbished BERSIH’s demands as utter nonsense. He cited that Pakatan won five state governments and denied BN its parliamentary two-thirds under the current electoral system in 2008. Indeed, he called on Pakatan elected representatives, including state governments in Penang, Kedah, Kelantan and Selangor, to resign immediately if they thought the electoral process was not fair and free.

“I challenge them to do it … will they?” he asked, adding that BERSIH was the NGO version of Pakatan.

Bersih, November 2007

Whether Pakatan is behind the rally or not, it is now up to Ambiga and company to prove that the BERSIH coalition is apolitical. Ambiga’s biggest task on July 9, if the rally ever takes place, is to convince the people that BERSIH would be for, by and with Malaysians, not merely representing Pakatan interests.

The New ASEAN-CER Initiative

June 25, 2011

The New ASEAN-CER Initiative

By Tim Groser and Craig Emerson*

ASEAN’S journey to a single market has attracted the attention of Australia and New Zealand.New Zealand Prime Minister John Key and Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard recognise that the Australia-New Zealand CER (Closer Economic Relations Trade Agreement) experience — good and bad — might offer some useful insights for ASEAN as it tackles its own, highly ambitious, economic integration process.

Realising the ambitions of ASEAN — a market of around 600 million people — presents strong regional and global economic opportunities.

The two down-under prime ministers have, therefore, proposed a new informal dialogue, the ASEAN-CER Integration Partnership Forum, to share experiences of economic integration.

The forum will hold its first seminar in Kuala Lumpur. The meeting today (June 24, 2011) will include presentations from senior figures in government, business and academia from Australia and New Zealand.

Against this background, CER and ASEAN are each advancing regional integration agendas. In doing so, both regions have recognised that this is a powerful way for governments to enhance innovation, efficiency, productivity and growth.

Since CER was launched in 1983, the value of two-way merchandise trade has grown at an average annual rate of eight per cent. Integration has generated wealth and ever-deeper integration. This is why both countries are keen to get around the table with ASEAN to discuss the CER journey and share lessons about Trans-Tasman integration.

CER and ASEAN — the Association of Southeast Asian Nations — are both significant economic players, with a Gross Domestic Product of around US$1.4 trillion and US$1.9 trillion (RM4.2 trillion and RM5.7 trillion). Both regions are linked through a landmark Asean-Australia-New Zealand Free Trade Agreement (AANZFTA), which entered into force last year.

Some may question whether CER is directly relevant to ASEAN integration, given the differences between the two regions in terms of size, homogeneity of language, culture and history, and stages of development.

But New Zealand and Australia are not seeking to portray CER as a roadmap for the ASEAN Economic Community. Put simply, we feel the pragmatic approaches that worked for us may also sit comfortably with ASEAN. It is our hope that ASEAN will find this sort of conversation useful.

There are some core themes among the lessons drawn from CER. First, regional integration is not a rapid process. The deep integration achieved between the Australian and New Zealand markets has come only after close to 30 years of the CER’s existence. And it is nearly 50 years since the first formal agreement was signed. ASEAN has a similar pedigree, since it was created in 1967.

Second, it takes vision and courageous leadership to make progress. CER developed organically. It worked best during periods of domestic economic reform and with strong, committed and imaginative political leadership. Likewise, ASEAN, with determined and committed leadership, is currently well-placed to push ahead with integration.

The CER agenda could not have moved ahead as far or as quickly as it did without the determined support of the Australasian business community. Third, CER showed that the greatest gains lay in breaking down trade barriers behind the border.

CER’s current work programme seeks innovative and practical ways to reduce business costs and red tape, to create a true single economic market.

Above all, the greatest lesson that CER taught Australia and New Zealand is that regional economic integration enhances not just Trans-Tasman trade, but also companies’ international competitiveness. That is essential in the current global economic climate, for ASEAN businesses as well as those in Australia and New Zealand.

The ASEAN-Economic Community, like AANZFTA and CER, is fundamentally about trying to create an environment that makes it easier, more profitable and more predictable for companies to enter markets and do business. The ASEAN-CER Integration Partnership Forum is an exciting opportunity to discuss how we can do that most effectively, whether for New Zealand, Australian or Southeast Asian businesses.

Tim Groser and Craig Emerson are the New Zealand and Australian Ministers of Trade respectively