Opening Remarks by Angel Gurría
Paris, France - 11 March 2019
(As prepared for delivery)
Dear Excellencies, Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen:
I am delighted to welcome you to the 6th Forum of our Southeast Asia Regional Programme (SEARP). Since Prime Minister Abe and I launched the SEARP in 2014, we have met in Bali, Jakarta, Hanoi, Bangkok and Tokyo. Today, we meet in Paris at the OECD’s Headquarters. Welcome to our home – “nuestra casa es su casa!”
The SEARP – and our engagement with other Southeast Asian fora, including ASEAN, APEC, ADB, ACMECS and UNESCAP – is a key pillar of the OECD’s wider global relations strategy. This strategy seeks to intensify the OECD’s support for global and regional fora and step up our engagement with emerging economies, to help globalise our best practice international standards.
We are facing many pressures that are reshaping globalisation and multilateralism as we have traditionally known it. The OECD’s latest Interim Economic Outlook shows that the global expansion is continuing to lose momentum, with trade restrictions having adverse effects on confidence and investment plans across the world. At the same time, entrenched inequalities, declining trust, and megatrends including rapid digitalisation, migration and climate change, are all deeply transforming our world. In principle, globalisation is about bringing economies, societies and people closer together, but in recent years, it has left many feeling excluded from its benefits.
The issue of connectivity, or more importantly “of inclusive connectivity”, is therefore becoming increasingly paramount, not only in emerging economies – where critical gaps, for example, in hard and soft infrastructure, remain – but also across OECD countries.
At a supranational level, multilateral institutions are struggling to keep an open and inclusive agenda. Our efforts to remain a global community are under threat. This is why the OECD is working hard to strengthen ties with its partners in Southeast Asia, building on common principles including openness, international co-operation, stronger economic integration, and also mutual respect and tolerance.
This co-operation is critical given that ASEAN’s weight in the global economy is growing. ASEAN is home to more than 640 million people, is a hub for global manufacturing, and is an increasingly important technological pole. With a current combined GDP of almost US$2.8 trillion in 2017, ASEAN’s economies collectively rank as the 5th largest in the world.
As a diverse economic community, a key policy challenge for ASEAN will be to narrow development gaps between its Members. Inclusive connectivity is one answer to this challenge.
As such, improving connectivity is an explicit objective of ASEAN’s Community Vision 2025, which strives to build a region that is “highly integrated and cohesive; competitive, innovative and dynamic; with enhanced connectivity.” The importance of connectivity was also underlined during the SEARP’s first Ministerial Meeting in Tokyo last year, where Ministers identified ‘connectivity’ as a core pillar for inclusiveness across ASEAN and earmarked it as a priority area of work for the SEARP.
The OECD has acknowledge this priority and is supporting the ASEAN region to improve its connectivity. We are working in different areas:
It is important to note that while most connectivity initiatives explicitly seek to combine the physical, institutional and people-to-people dimensions of connectivity, the level of commitment is uneven, with most progress occurring in respect of physical connectivity. The OECD believes that special emphasis should be put on institutional connectivity – trade and investment facilitation, regulatory reform, and generally good governance – as a key enabler for physical and people-to-people connectivity.
Ladies and Gentlemen:
The importance of connectivity between economies and regions cannot be overstated! It is crucial in helping us to foster stronger national cohesion, international co-operation, inclusion, transparency, trust, you name it. It is also a cornerstone for designing, developing and delivering better policies for better lives.
I very much look forward to hearing the outcomes of your fruitful discussions today. Count on the OECD as we work towards a more connected Southeast Asia! Thank you.