The United States and 10 Southeast Asian nations have signed a trade and investment agreement that paves the way for free-trade talks.
|Haze affects mobile signals|
Haze _ a mix of dust, smoke and other pollutants _ is a regular problem in the region and is caused by land and forest fires in Indonesia, particularly in Sumatra and Kalimantan. Southeast Asian nations have urged Indonesia to ratify a regional treaty to fight annual brush fires that have sent choking smoke across parts of Malaysia and Singapore, saying only then would it get financial help.
“We hope to arrive at a clear understanding and agreements on binding measures during a top-level meeting of environment officials this week”
Philippine Environment Secretary Angelo Reyes
In 2002, ASEAN nations signed the Agreement on Transboundary Haze Pollution, but Indonesia is the only country in the group that has yet to ratify it. The agreement would result in the establishment of a regional coordinating center capable of reacting quickly to the smoke.
ASEAN Secretary-General Ong Keng Yong recently urged members to demonstrate willpower to solve the recurring problem, saying it was just a question of enforcing measures that have already been agreed to. Last month, Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono apologized for the haze and his spokesman said his country was prepared to sign on to the ASEAN agreement, but did not provide a time frame.
ASEAN groups Brunei, Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Malaysia, Indonesia, Singapore, Thailand, the Philippines and Vietnam.