EU-ASEAN Conference Stresses the Need to Move Ties to a Higher Level
Secretary-General of ASEAN, Le Luong Minh, and Head of the Delegation of the European Union (EU), Julian Wilson, opened a high-level ‘EU-ASEAN Economic & Policy Forum’ today at the ASEAN Secretariat in Jakarta. During the conference senior officials and experts from both regions assessed past developments and future prospects of the EU and ASEAN integration processes. The vibrant and dynamic panel discussions focused on how the EU-ASEAN relations should move forward in the context of rapidly changing economic and geopolitical realities.
Despite the challenges confronting both regions’ respective regional integration processes, ASEAN-EU dialogue relations, encompassing political, socio-cultural and economic cooperation continued to be strong. This can be gleamed from the vibrant trade and investment flows, which showed modest growth rates notwithstanding global economic conditions. But while the partnership remains close, developments over the next 5 years are expected to provide the impetus needed to bring the relationship to a higher level. This was the general message arising from the various presentations at the EU-ASEAN Economic & Policy Forum.
“The new ASEAN-EU Plan of Action is indeed relevant and timely, and should be expected to put ASEAN and EU in a good footing to address the challenges in the context of slow global economic recovery,” said the Secretary-General of ASEAN, Le Luong Minh. Meanwhile, EU Ambassador Julian Wilson stated, “It is very simple: Like ASEAN, we believe that when countries act together, it makes us stronger and more effective. That is what regional integration is about and that is why we say we have a ‘common DNA’ with ASEAN.”
At the moment, ASEAN is moving rapidly, with members engaged in an array of new initiatives designed to help achieve the goal of creating an ASEAN community by 2015. At the same time, these rapid changes are prompting the EU to take a fresh look at ties with the region. As a whole, ASEAN is the EU’s third largest trading partners outside Europe (after the US and China). Total trade in goods and services between the two sides reached €180 billion in 2012. The EU, on the other hand, is ASEAN's second largest trading partner after China, accounting for around 11% of total ASEAN’s trade with the rest of the world. Moreover, the EU is by far the largest foreign investor in ASEAN, holding around one quarter of all foreign investment stocks in ASEAN.
The Forum – attended by diplomats, officials of the Indonesian government, academics, the business community and media – repeatedly stressed the many shared interests between ASEAN and the EU while also underlining EU’s dedication to engage ASEAN Member States and the private sector in the region in order to strengthen economic ties, especially in light of the continuing economic dynamism.
The international conference was organised jointly by Global Europe think-tank, ASEAN Secretariat, the EU Delegation in Jakarta, and Konrad Adenauer Foundation. ASEAN Foundation and The Habibie Center were associated partners of the event and The Jakarta Post provided support as Media Partner.
The main organiser, Global Europe, is an independent, non-for-profit think tank whose mission is to stimulate independent thinking on European Union’s external affairs. Apart from promoting international research collaboration and publication of briefing papers, policy briefs and commentaries prepared, Global Europe also organises international conferences, workshops and seminars on different political, economic, defence, security and diplomatic issues. Global Europe is committed to presenting a diversity of voices and ideas both from within and outside of Europe with the aim of achieving a balanced dialogue between different stakeholders and constituencies.
The conference was opened by EU Ambassador, Julian Wilson, followed by a keynote speech from ASEAN Secretary General, Le Luong Minh. Then, three panels provided ample opportunity for lively discussions and constructive debates. The panels explored the following topics: (1) 'Advancing Regionalism and Integration: EU and ASEAN Experience', (2) 'EU-ASEAN Relations in the Changing Global Order' and (3) 'EU-ASEAN Relations towards a New Era: Agendas and prospects'.
The panellists included:
- Professor Dewi Fortuna Anwar (Special Advisor, Office of the Vice-President, Indonesia)
- Lim Hong Hin (Deputy Secretary-General of ASEAN)
- Professor Dorodjatun Kuntjoro Jakti (Professor of Political Economics, University of Indonesia. former Coordinating Minister for the Economy and Finance, Indonesia)
- Dr Makarim Wibisono (Executive Director, ASEAN Foundation, Jakarta)
- Dr Jayant Menon (Lead Economist, Asian Development Bank)
- Shada Islam (Head of Policy, Friends of Europe Foundation, Brussels)
- Michael Matthiessen (EU Visiting Fellow 2012-2013, Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy, NUS, Singapore)
- Professor Miriam Campanella (Faculty of Political Sciences, University of Turin, Italy).
On the occasion of this conference, the book entitled "EU-ASEAN Relations in the 21st Century. Strategic Partnerships in the Making" was also launched.