The Kuala Lumpur Declaration hammered out at the East Asia Summit (EAS) yesterday ushered in a new and exciting era. The whole of East Asia is taking off.
The summit and a series of ASEAN meetings on Monday and Tuesday have created a route map that details important milestones for charting development.
With the EAS forum to be held every year, the leaders of the 16 countries involved will have the chance to exchange views on a wide range of topics.
This sends a powerful message of consensus and confidence among regional countries, something that our region needs now, and something that the world has been waiting to witness.
Opening its door to Australia, India and New Zealand three economic powers from outside the region East Asia is moving step by step towards greater integration. These nations add to the vibrancy of the region.
Broader co-operation helps sustain growth and prosperity for countries across the region.
Evidence of growth, progress and hope can be seen in East Asia. Only through co-operation will countries in the region keep their promise of striving for a stable and prosperous East Asia.
Gaining confidence from co-operation with Australia, India and New Zealand, the ASEAN plus three China, Japan and the Republic of Korea has redesigned a plan working towards an ASEAN Economic Community by 2015, five years earlier than previously envisaged.
The incorporation of the three countries shows the grouping has remained outward-looking. It is not closed or protectionist.
Dynamic and vibrant as it is, East Asia depends critically on its links with other parts of the region and the world at large.
In the process, the ASEAN plus three countries has been and will remain a growth engine as economic co-operation intensifies.
The EAS inauguration has led to the development of a new framework for co-operation in the region by taking an open, inclusive approach. The EAS and ASEAN plus three are expected to complement each other.
This broader grouping reflects reality trade, investment and personal exchanges are transcending geographical boundaries.
Trade has been the magic catalyst for regional co-operation in the past. The way ahead must include other building blocks for regional peace and prosperity. By doing so, a "we" feeling in the region will be turned into a real togetherness.
China is already the major economic partner of many countries in East Asia. China's growth has brought tremendous opportunities to all in the region, and will promote economic integration.
The free trade agreement that China is negotiating with ASEAN will give ASEAN countries favourable access to the Chinese market through an "Early Harvest" package. The chapter on trade in goods, which has been completed, will foster a closer relationship between China and ASEAN.
In the broader grouping China is an equal partner. Providing other members with opportunities, China has benefited a great deal from them. This is the way that China deals with its neighbours.
After the pomp of Kuala Lumpur is forgotten, the East Asia Summit will leave its mark on regional development. Still, it should be more than a political symbol.
(China Daily December 15, 2005)