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Integration Makes ASEAN Stronger in Era of Globalization
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Diversities put ASEAN (the Association of Southeast Asian Nations) members together for integration which makes the regional bloc stronger in an era of globalization today, said ASEAN Secretary-General Ong Keng Yong.

"If ASEAN member countries are individuals one by one, we will never be as strong as today," Ong said in an exclusive interview with Xinhua at the ASEAN Secretariat in Jakarta on Wednesday.

"We know the diversities sometimes divide us, but each of us has strong suits. For example, Indonesia is a big country with thousands of islands and so much natural resources, and Singapore is a small city, but it has network and human resources. They can complement each other. Finally, we come together and develop much more solid foundation," said Ong.

Countries in the region have huge diversities. They have different ideologies, believe in different religions, live in different cultural backgrounds, economic and social development are also in different phases. These are seen as one of the biggest challenge for future integration of ASEAN.

"If we do not unite, we can not compete. Even Indonesia itself, the biggest economy in ASEAN, can not compete with economic giants like Japan, China and India," said Ong. "But if we come together, we can have a good run."

As the goal of ASEAN is to build "a caring and sharing community," he stressed, "It means that we help each other, then we will have stronger peace.

"We need to strengthen the social cultural agenda, so we have to develop education, protect environment, care about our workers working in other countries, fight all the diseases and public health problems, we should now work with each other," said the secretary-general.

(Xinhua News Agency August 10, 2007)

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