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ASEAN-Russia talks derailed:
Calls also made for ASEAN+3 meeting to be more meaningful
Caroline Boey, Langkawi
 

Caroline Boey, Langkawi  
(24th Jan 2005)


THE first ASEAN-Russia Tourism Consultation meeting scheduled for January 23 was derailed when the new dialogue partner cancelled its attendance just days before ATF.

India was also a no-show at what was to have been its third meeting with ASEAN.

Tourism Malaysia director-general, Mr Kamaruddin Siaraf, said India minister of state for tourism, Ms Renuka Choudhury, had confirmed her participation. All the tourism ministers attending ATF will receive a specially made batik outfit and hers had been ordered.

In 2003, India sent 744,000 visitors to ASEAN and this had grown to 857,000 between January and November 2004. Russia sent 121,000 visitors to ASEAN in 2003 and 115,000 between January and November 2004.

Mr Kamaruddin said the next opportunity to meet India and Russia, key markets for ASEAN, would be in June when the NTOs are scheduled to convene in Sokcho near the Demilitarised Zone in South Korea.

“With India, we were looking at IT co-operation and the enhancement of the ASEAN website. India had indicated it was keen to participate in the website, which is hyperlinked to the NTOs of the 10 ASEAN countries.

“Promotion of ASEAN via the website has been ongoing for the last couple of years and we will look at increasing the budget at our next meeting.”

With the Russian market, which has been coming to ASEAN in increasing numbers on charter flights, Mr Kamaruddin said ASEAN was keen to discuss the access issue. Several NTO officials expressed their disappointment to TTG Asia Official ATF Daily over the absences. Several NTOs also believe the ASEAN +3 meeting at ATF should be made more effective.

While the half-day meeting with the +3 officials of dialogue partners China, Japan and South Korea provided a good sounding board, Philippine undersecretary tourism service and regional offices, Mr Oscar Palabyab, raised the need for a more effective “mechanism” to convert discussions into concrete action and results.

The +3 tourism meetings reflect the format adopted by the ASEAN leaders. Mr Palabyab added: “It would be easier if we were tackling just one issue with one dialogue partner and did not have to raise a sensitive issue in front of the other dialogue partners. The faces of the officials at these meetings also keep changing and the urgency is not felt.

“The ASEAN Secretariat is just a co-ordinating office and ASEAN needs a shepherd. Perhaps we should look at the EU model, with an elected leader, chosen on a rotational basis, who can champion the goals of the grouping and for ASEAN to play a bigger advocacy role.”

Indonesia Ministry of Culture and Tourism deputy minister for capacity building and industrial relations, Mr Thamrin Bachri, commented the +3 meeting would be more effective if it was a strategic issue-based one focused on say travel advisories.

 
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