ASEAN leaders road trip it to big meetings

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ASEAN leaders promoted connectivity among the ten member states this week by taking a road trip through the region’s heartland on their way to a summit in Da Nang that begun Wednesday.

ASEAN foreign ministers and the association’s general secretary Surin Pitsuwan drove Route R9 through the East-West Economic Corridor, Laos and Vietnam after a high-level gathering in Bangkok.

From Thailand they flew to Savannakhet in Laos where they caravanned to the Lao Bao Border Gate in Vietnam. The “economic corridor” is a series of roads and infrastructure, including R9, that connects commercial activity in Myanmar, Thailand, Laos and Vietnam.

The delegates made their way to Vietnam’s ancient imperial capital of Hue before reaching Da Nang on the same day.

The trip was followed by a series of meetings including the 3rd Meeting of the ASEAN Political-Security Community (APSC) Council, a Special Meeting of the ASEAN Coordinating Council (ACC) and the ASEAN Foreign Ministers Retreat in Da Nang.

During the ASEAN Summit in Thailand in October 2009, the group had agreed to improve the grouping’s position in the region and facilitate the building of an ASEAN Community.

The ASEAN Community aims to build a free-trade area for all countries in the group. Currently six ASEAN countries apply tariffs of 0-5 percent, excluding Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and Vietnam, who are expected to join this tariff program by 2015.

Vietnam currently chairs the ASEAN body for the 2010 term.

Reported by Truong Dien Thang - Minh Hung

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