By Tae Han Goo
SEOUL (IDN) – South Korea’s large port city Busan hosted end of August the meeting of Foreign Ministers and Senior Officials of the little known Forum for East Asia-Latin America Cooperation (FEALAC) constituting 36 countries of East Asia, Southeast Asia and Latin America.
Though comprised mainly of developing countries, the two regions did not have an official cooperative mechanism bridging the two continents together until in September 1998, the then Prime Minister of Singapore Gho Chok Tong tabled a concrete proposal to enhance the relations. Subsequently, the EALAF (East Asia-Latin America Forum) Senior Officials’ Meeting was held in Singapore in September 1999, marking the beginning of FEALAC.
At the first Foreign Ministerial Meeting, held in Santiago, Chile, in March 2001, EALAF was officially renamed FEALAC and the Framework Document – containing the purpose, principles, and operative direction of the forum – was adopted.
In January 2004 at the second Foreign Ministerial Meeting, the Manila Plan of Action – proposing a concrete course in fostering mutual understanding and cooperation between the two regions – was adopted.
The third Foreign Ministerial Meeting in Brasilia, Brazil, adopted in August 2007 the Brasilia Ministerial Declaration and Programme of Action, outlining concrete proposals regarding the future direction and action plans for the further development of FEALAC.
The 8th Foreign Ministers’ Meeting in Busan on August 31, 2017 under the theme “One Vision, New Action,” agreed to strengthen the “interconnectivity” between the regions and broaden the areas of cooperation by establishing a FEALAC Fund.
The Foreign Ministers of two continents called for strengthening cooperation with international organizations, think-tanks, civil society and the private sector in order to intensify concerted efforts and effectively conduct projects in various realms.
Attending FEALAC, Dr. Shamshad Akhtar, Executive Secretary of UNESCAP (UN Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific) said that “strengthening the partnership between FEALAC and the United Nations Regional Commissions – ESCAP and ECLAC [Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean] – is a timely initiative as it falls squarely within our brief as UN regional think tanks to provide solid analysis to inform effective multilateral action”.
“The FEALAC Fund, unanimously endorsed by . . . the 8th Foreign Ministers’ meeting . . . with expressions of strong support for the role of UN Regional Commissions, will,” according to the UNESCAP, “create new opportunities to support enhancement and diversification of trade by promoting innovation and tackling tariff and non-tariff barriers, along with advancing public policies for sustainable growth and development.”
United Nations Under-Secretary-General and Executive Secretary of ESCAP Dr. Shamshad Akhtar said: “The two regions need to promote and transfer advanced technologies and develop mutually supportive ICT infrastructure, which can help overcome the vast physical distance separating them. Through these efforts, FEALAC can open a new chapter in East Asia-Latin America cooperation.”
She added: “Much potential exists for cooperation in science, technology and innovation as well as green growth policies as key means of implementing the Sustainable Development Goals.”
Established in September 1999, at the initiative of the then Prime Minister of Singapore Gho Chok Tong, FEALAC brings together 36 countries on two continents accounting for a third of global Gross Domestic Product (GDP).
Sixteen of the member states are from East Asia and Southeast Asia: Australia, Brunei, Cambodia, China, Indonesia, Japan, Laos, Malaysia, Mongolia, Myanmar, New Zealand, Philippines, Republic of Korea, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.
Twenty of the member states from Latin America are: Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Suriname, Uruguay, and Venezuela. [IDN-InDepthNews – 31 August 2017]
Photo: The FEALAC 8th Foreign Ministers’ Meeting & 16th Senior Officials’ Meeting took place on August 29-September 1, 2017 in Busan, Korea, under the theme “One Vision, New Action.” Credit. FEALAC
IDN is flagship agency of the International Press Syndicate