H. E. Mr. George Yeo, Minister for Foreign Affairs
29 September 2008
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GEORGE YEO, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Singapore, said the collapse of the recent Doha Round of international trade talks was deeply troubling and had come as the global economy was rapidly slowing down. Many members of the international community were worried that protectionist pressures would emerge in many countries, and that an increase in trade protectionism could reduce global welfare by many billions of dollars. All that could hurt the collective effort to achieve the Millennium Development Goals.
He said no decisions on major issues of the day could be taken without major countries in the lead. If it was so difficult to reach a conclusion on the Doha round, “which is a positive sum game”, it was difficult to be optimistic that a United Nations agreement on climate change could be negotiated without strong leadership by the United States, Europe, Russia, China, India, Japan and Brazil.
As a small nation, Singapore accepted that while every country, large or small, had one vote each, each country did not carry the same weight. Small countries needed the United Nations and other international institutions to protect their interests. The Forum of Small States, an informal grouping of more than half of the United Nations membership, took a realistic view of global politics as the only way to secure its own interest, he said.
Recent developments in the Balkans and Caucasus did not bode well for the future. He termed the Russian Federation’s recent recognition of South Ossetia and Abkhazia as independent states “unsettling”. It was crucial for all countries, large and small, to adhere to the Charter and the international rule of law. It was an absolute necessity to reform the United Nations, taking into account the global changes since the end of the Second World War. International institutions could also be made more effective by partnering with regional organizations.
For example, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) had effectively stepped in and built a bridge of trust between the Myanmar Government and the international community after Cyclone Nargis hit Myanmar in May of this year. While international and regional institutions could provide a more conducive environment, the key to a country’s development was its own good governance. Every country needed to find its own road to the future. Good governance, for example, along with the right policies helped China effectively stage the Beijing Olympic Games. The right policies introduced less than 20 years ago in India also had helped that country make remarkable progress, he said.
Though very diverse, the countries of Asia were being reconnected by a new East-West trade in a new age of globalization, he said. The promotion of effective Government, as compared to the promotion of democracy, was a critical factor in producing an economic take-off. Let each country, after reaching a certain level of development, then shape the form of democracy best suited to its culture and history.
For development to take place there had to be peace. The thoughtful manner in which the United States was managing its relationship with a rising China and India was of decisive importance. It was rare in history for new powers to emerge without conflict. China and India were becoming responsible stakeholders in the global system. Global leadership was needed, but by a new concert of big powers going beyond the United States, Europe and Japan, he said. A more inclusive global arrangement that included China, Russia, India and Brazil would make this a better and safer world for all.