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ASEAN is gateway to Asia, says secretary-general

BUDAPEST, Aug. 23 — Secretary-General of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Surin Pitsuwan on Wednesday told Hungarian diplomats that his organization was a gateway to economic cooperation with Asia and an excellent avenue for strengthening Europe-Asia ties.

Speaking at an annual gathering of Hungarian ambassadors stationed all over the world, Pitsuwan said while ASEAN could find inspiration from the European Union (EU), the EU could not serve as a model for ASEAN since the two organizations were very different.

Pitsuwan, a Thai national, said ASEAN offered its members expanded market access being located in a region bordered by China, India, Australia, Japan and South Korea. He said ASEAN aspired to become a hub for this dynamically growing region.

While the United States and Europe are still trying to overcome an economic downturn, Pitsuwan said the economies of southeast Asia were growing, adding that given global interdependence, trouble in the EU is bad for everyone.

He stated Chinese growth was to the benefit of all of Asia and that ASEAN needed more investors and tourists.

Earlier in the day, Pitsuwan held talks with Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban. Orban underscored his country's goal of improving ties with southeast Asia and suggested cooperation in education and science as a foundation. They agreed to design a comprehensive scholarship program as a first step. (PNA/Xinhua)

CTB//RSM

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