The first ministerial meeting of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries and their counterparts from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN)

Speech by Dr. Mohammad Sabah AlSalem AlSabah At the first ministerial meeting of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries and their counterparts from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN)

June 30, 2009 - Manama

Firstly, I would like to express my sincere gratitude to the government of the sisterly Kingdom of Bahrain and to His Excellency my brother Khalid bin Ahmed for the warm hospitality we have received.

The atmosphere in which we gather today reminds us of one of the oldest Arab traditions, the traditions of Arab generosity and hospitality. Our traditions are full of lessons, including accepting others and accommodating their differences. Although we may speak, dress, and live differently, this does not prevent us from complementing each other. I believe that there are three key areas for integration between our regions.

Firstly, the energy sector: The Gulf region is blessed with energy resources in their various forms, including oil, gas, and solar energy, while our friends in Asia have abundance in water, fertile land, and food, which we are in dire need of in our region. This leaves room for cooperation based on energy in exchange for food security. I hope we can work well in this area.

Secondly, the workforce: In the Gulf region, we suffer from a scarcity of national labor, while Asia is full of qualified workers. This is also a good area for exchange and cooperation.

Thirdly, the financial sector: As you know, the Gulf countries have become globally known as active partners in the investment field, where we have built global expertise and reputation. Meanwhile, Asia has proven to be effective and successful in deploying and utilizing capital in various diverse areas, yielding the highest returns.

There are other areas that require planning and intensive work by both regions, which are the areas where we are in competition. We compete in the need to develop education, health, and environmental sectors.

In the field of education, there is an urgent need for joint efforts to create and establish centers of scientific excellence that are distinguished by providing a high level of education through the exchange of experiences in this field.

As for the environment, two years ago, during the last OPEC summit held in Riyadh, we established a fund for the development and protection of the environment, indicating the intention of this gathering to secure energy supply to the world while preserving that hydrocarbon energy sources are not an environmental hazard, whether in production or consumption areas.

In conclusion, our differences are a source of blessing and integration, not a curse and conflict, which will undoubtedly contribute to the success and development of the partnership and cooperation project between these two important regional blocs.

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