ASEAN KEY DESTINATIONS
IP protection important for luring EU businesses to invest in ASEAN
THE European Union is the largest investor into ASEAN by far, totaling more than US$74 billion between 2011 and 2013, according to ASEAN Foreign Direct Investment Statistics. In comparison, Japan only reached US$56 billion and China, US$21billion in the same time period.
Business Reporter Koo Jin Shen spoke with Antonio Berenguer (pic), Head of Trade and Economic Affairs at the Bangkok Office of the European Union, who said that the European Union had over the last 10 years been promoting the growth of intellectual property protection through the European-ASEAN on the Protection of Intellectual Property Rights to help protect their companies operating in the region.
Here, Berengeur talks about ongoing efforts to promote Intellectual Property Rights in the region while also speaking on the future of economic ties between ASEAN and EU.
Below is some excerpts of the interview, edited for clarity.
What’s the economic relationship between EU and ASEAN like at the moment?
It is quite healthy. The most interesting part which explains why we are trying to cooperate with ASEAN in the field of Intellectual Property Rights is the fact remains today that we are the largest investor in ASEAN as a region.
Our companies are here creating jobs, promoting innovation and so on. IP is an enabling tool which protects their technology and designs.
Because of our investments here, we see that it is not only an ASEAN interest but also a common interest that IPR is better known in this region, that it is recognised by the people and the companies but also have the institutions such as Intellectual Property offices and judiciary and so on that can protect it, so companies of all sectors can develop here.
This is part of the reason why we have been here for more than 10 years with this cooperation and why the EU is injecting funding in this particular area.
What do you see is the next step to grow links between EU and ASEAN in terms of trade and investment?
For the future of the EU-ASEAN relationship, there are several milestones and events that are happening simultaneously that will mark the future of our relations.
The most significant of that is ASEAN integration itself and the extent of the implementation is carried out that benefits ASEAN but also does not exclude others.
ASEAN integration is largely already a reality when it comes to the free movement of goods. The whole process of tariff dismantling has been largely completed for vast majority of countries except for the least developed. And this is already something that benefits everyone, (for example) European companies who are manufacturing here, investing here or even trading with ASEAN is benefiting from this.
The main issue in particular is the free movement of services and services liberalisation.
This is one area which is very competitive for the EU, 70 per cent of the EU GDP comes out of the services sector such as banking, insurance, telecommunications, you name it. We see the creation of a level playing field for services in ASEAN as a very good opportunity for the EU to actually help to create a more competitive and enabling service sector that supports ASEAN integration.
It is very easy and interesting to say that from now onwards you can trade or export from here to there or set up a factory in this country or that, but to establish your factory you still need someone to give you a loan.
If you are planning an ASEAN strategy for your business, you still need to communicate with your different subsidiaries in different country, so over time you need to be able to move without having to buy 10 different sim-cards or pay outrageous roaming charges.
We have had this a long time in Europe, so we know how much this barrier can be hindering to economic integration in a region. We have managed to remove some of it, but not all.
The key thing is that if ASEAN integration is genuine and is a true reality then if EU investment is now strong, it will become even stronger.
What about an EU-ASEAN Free Trade Agreement?
The EU have a Free-Trade Agreement with Singapore and it has ongoing processes with Vietnam and Malaysia.
These are very ambitious agreements which will cover the whole gambit of trade matters. Our idea is that these bilateral trade agreements will result in a commonality engagement between EU and ASEAN which will allow us to build upon and conclude a region-to-region free trade agreement.
To be 100 per cent honest, there was an attempt to do a region-to-region agreement in 2007. In 2009, we had a bit of a stock taking with the ASEAN side. At that time, we were asking from ASEAN a number of things that ASEAN countries were not giving among themselves, or can only give to us only after integration.
However, the objective is still there, and is shared by both sides. More free trade is good, but perhaps it should go within the right sequence such as integration first. It is what we did as the European Union, we started integration first and once there was sufficient domestic integration then we began to talk outside.--The Brunei Times
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