Sharm El Shiekh, Egypt; Sri Lanka was a part of the Asia-Middle East Dialogue (AMED) for the first time since after it was created in 2005 in Singapore.
The Second Ministerial AMED Meeting held here, brought together 50 Foreign Ministers to discuss ways in which to build political, economic and social, educational, cultural, technological and media partnerships for growth and stability in the two regions.
"Sea routes and over land routes, the silk route, linked the two regions in the past and today, with the global economy turning toward Asia, there is a need to builds on AMED and this could open the door for unprecedented opportunities to transform this corporation into a sustainable and operational level that could unleash the huge potentials of the two regions and transform them into mutual achievements and benefits," Ahmed Aboul Gheit, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Egypt said.
At the Singapore meeting AMED established three working groups. The Foreign Minister of Singapore, George Yeo, highlighted two significant achievements of two projects started by two of the working groups.
"The Economic working group is working on the standardization of halal food certification across the two regions which will felicitate trade and investment in an industry worth billions of dollars.
"The Social, Educational, Scientific, Cultural, Environmental and Media (SESCEM) working group has established two regional training centers in Amman and Doha focusing on vocational training and public administration. These are simple but practical projects which bring immediate benefits to our people," he said.
Yeo said that with the reemergence of China and India on the global stage, Asia had become the fastest growing region in the world.
"Asia’s energy needs have raised the price of oil and gas ushering in a new era of peace for hydrocarbon-rich countries. Direct and portfolio investments by countries in the Middle East have grown in recent years including those by sovereign wealth funds. Islamic finance and banking have become more important in Kuala Lumpur, Singapore and Hong Kong.
"The Middle East has also become a huge opportunity for Asian companies. Trillions of dollars are being spent on infrastructure creating an unprecedented construction boom."
Yeo said AMED can serve as a platform for the regions to share knowledge about each other’s development experiences and bring about new areas of partnerships and use these partnerships to overcome trans-boundary challenges like energy, security, climate change, religious conflict, international terrorism and maritime security.
China’s Foreign Minister, Wang Yi said that the two regions face new opportunities as the world moved towards multi-polarity, economic globalization and regional integration.
"Countries in the two regions have achieved economic take-off and fast growth while a number of emerging economies show a strong growth momentum.
"But fierce competition brought about by economic globalization has led to a greater imbalance between different regions and countries. The souring consumption of energy and resources caused growing tension between environment and development," Yi said.
Yi said that without stability the regions will not achieve anything in terms of economic development, with many of the hotspots located in the region.
"We should place domestic stability high on the agenda of our governments, remove destabilizing factors such as poverty and under development and promote social harmony.
And therefore the two regions should enhance their solidarity and expand exchange between leaders, political parties, legislatures and people; we should deepen friendship between government and people," he said.
He pointed out that development of the two regions is not high and well below the world average.
"We should stick to development paths which suit our national conditions. China’s progress attributes to continued reforms over a span of thirty years.
Foreign Minister Rohitha Bogollagama said that Sri Lanka’s vibrant business community not only made the economy resilient ion to the ongoing conflict in the country but showed that the government was trying its best to adopt efficient policies in governance.
"A sign of good governance is to have a vibrant private sector," Bogollagama said on a panel discussion on Efficient Governance and Political and Economic Transformations.
"Our private sector contributes 80 percent to GDP and this has made life very easy for policy makers. In the face of the conflict and other external shocks, our economy did not collapse because of them," he said.
He said that stability is a precondition for development and that government was treating the LTTE for what it is.
With the East liberated, he said that the political rights of the people are being restored to them with the advent of the provincial council elections.
"Devolution is the way forward and our constitution allows for devolution through the provincial councils according to the 13the Amendment," Bogollagama said.
The kind of trade between some of the developed Asian countries with the Middle East could no doubt encourage developing countries to take steps to build stronger economic ties with each other.
Bilateral trade between China and the Middle East increased rapidly over the years, Yi said, and reached US $ 123.8 billion in 2007, while China provided 412 million yuan of aid to the region.
Yeo said that Singapore’s trade increased by 50 percent from 2004 to 2007.
Last year it reached US $ 35 billion and is expected to get a boost when the recently negotiated free trade agreement between Singapore and the region comes into effect later this year.