Keynote Address
EU-ASEAN Economic & Policy Forum
18 April 2013, ASEAN Secretariat

H.E. Le Luong Minh
Secretary-General of ASEAN

Your Excellency Ambassador Julian Wilson, Head of the EU Delegation
Excellencies, Ambassador from ASEAN and EU Member States,
Excellencies, Ambassadors and Members of the Diplomatic Corps
Distinguished Panelists and Speakers,

Ladies and Gentlemen,
First of all, let me welcome you to the ASEAN Secretariat and to the EU-ASEAN Economic and Policy Forum. I am indeed pleased to address this Forum, which by bringing together policy makers, business community, academia and the civil society provides an opportunity for discussion on further enhancing ASEAN-EU relations. I thank the EU Delegation and the Permanent Mission of Viet Nam for the initiative making this Forum possible.

I also would like to congratulate the organisers, Global Europe and the Konrad Adenauer Foundation, for putting together this event at an appropriate time for a reinvigoration of our relations, especially when ASEAN and the EU are working arduously in building their respective regional economic groupings in the face of different challenges.

ASEAN-EU Relations
The EU has been one of ASEAN’s oldest dialogue partners with dialogue relations dating back to the early 1970s. Since their formalization in 1977 and  institutionalization in 1980 the ASEAN-EU dialogue relations have grown rapidly to cover a wide area of activities encompassing political and security, economic, trade, social, cultural and development cooperation.

Notable milestones in the ASEAN-EU dialogue relations include the EU’s accession to the Treaty of Amity and Cooperation in Southeast Asia (TAC) in July 2012, which manifested the EU’s commitment and support for ASEAN and the non-ASEAN signatories to the TAC in promoting peace, security and stability in the region. Since the entry into force of the ASEAN Charter in 2008, twenty-four EU member states and the European Commission itself have appointed Ambassadors to ASEAN. Further, to give a more strategic focus to regional cooperation in a wide range of areas covering the three ASEAN Community Pillars, the Bandar Seri Begawan Plan of Action to Strengthen the ASEAN-EU Enhanced Partnership (2013-2017) was adopted.

The EU, as a major development partner of ASEAN, has significantly contributed and continues to contribute to ASEAN’s community building. Both ASEAN and the EU recognize the importance of cooperation in advancing our respective  integration agendas over the years.

The EU has been a strong supporter of ASEAN’s community building efforts through various support programmes despite the challenges confronting the EU and its member states. In our pursuit of regional integration through such cooperative efforts, ASEAN is able to draw lessons from the EU experience.

Programmes such as the APRIS or the ASEAN-EU Programme for Regional Integration Support that spanned over a period from 2003 to 2010 in two phases, contributed to laying a strong foundation for the ASEAN Economic Community. This programme brought about tangible results in the area of trade facilitation, such as simplification of customs procedures; and in the area of standards and conformance, among others.

The EU’s support and assistance continue through the successor programme signed early this year, the ASEAN Regional Integration Support Programme by the EU or referred to in short as ARISE. The Programme primarily aims to enhance the capacity of ASEAN Member States in harmonizing and implementing policies and regulations and also in strengthening the ASEAN Secretariat’s capacity, essentially drawing from the EU’s expertise and experience, in support of the realization of the ASEAN Economic Community by 2015.

Other notable programmes of EU trade-related assistance to ASEAN include, the Enhancing ASEAN FTA Negotiating Capacity Programme which aims to develop ASEAN capacities for trade negotiations, strengthen the participation of CLMV countries and targeted awareness-raising and socialisation; the EU-ASEAN Statistical Capacity-Building Programme which aims to improve the harmonization of statistical data in ASEAN, and the ASEAN Project on the Protection of Intellectual Property Rights that targets to assist in strengthening the institutional capacity for Intellectual Property administration and enforcement in ASEAN besides other objectives.

In the non-economic front, the Regional EU-ASEAN Dialogue Instrument provides the platform for sectoral dialogue and consultations particularly in the areas of human trafficking, information and communications technology, labour and employment, air transport, climate change, energy, science and technology, and disaster management, among others. In the area of disaster management, specifically, the EU is assisting ASEAN in the development of a monitoring and evaluation system for the implementation of the ASEAN Agreement on Disaster Management and Emergency Response and the ASEAN Coordinating Center for Humanitarian Assistance on Disaster Management.

ASEAN Community Building
Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,

ASEAN is currently working to build a resilient, dynamic and sustainable ASEAN Community while maintaining its centrality in an evolving regional architecture. We are working towards an integrated, connected, people-centered and rules-based region as well as a prosperous ASEAN. The ASEAN Community that ASEAN targets to realize by 2015 is based on the 3 pillars : the Political and Security Community; the Socio-Cultural Community and the Economic Community. It is by far the most ambitious journey ASEAN Member States have embarked on in nearly 50 years of ASEAN’s existence.

At this juncture, I would like to take the opportunity to thank the EU for its valuable contributions and continuous support for ASEAN’s community building. The close cooperation between ASEAN and the EU is well reflected in our strong trade and investment relations.

Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,
Global Economy and Regional Outlook
The global economy is expected to remain weak in 2013, which is mainly due to slow recovery in advanced markets. According to the World Economic Outlook the IMF announced in January this year, the global economy is projected to show a gradual upturn in 2013 as the factors underlying soft global activity are expected to subside. The global growth is expected at 3.5% from the estimated growth of 3.2% last year.

Against this backdrop, ASEAN is projected to achieve its growth between 5.3 and 6.0 percent in 2013 compare with 5.6 percent last year.  Although the region’s growth is well anchored on domestic demand, exports are still an important source of growth for many countries. The Eurozone economy has been in recession since the fourth quarter of 2011 and the markets remain sensitive to the design and implementation of reforms to resolve the debt and banking crisis in Europe.  The overall growth in the Eurozone is expected to contract by 0.2 percent in 2013. However, this is a slight improvement from negative 0.4 percent in 2012.

Despite the uncertainty in the Eurozone economy with the structural reforms and some policies being implemented by the European Central Bank to address the situation, ASEAN-EU bilateral trade still managed to grow by 12.6 percent amounting to US$ 234.8 billion in 2011. ASEAN exports to the EU increased by 9.1 percent amounting to US$ 126.6 billion while imports from the EU grew by 15.6 percent amounting to US$ 108.2 billion. In 2011, FDI inflow from the EU into ASEAN increased by 7.2 percent reaching US$ 18.2 billion. The EU remains one of ASEAN’s largest trading partner and ASEAN’s biggest source of FDI as it accounts for 16.0 percent of total FDI inflows into ASEAN. For the EU, ASEAN is the 2nd largest trading partner outside the EU.

Our regions’ economic engagement is holding comparatively well even with the global economic uncertainties and the effect it has on both advanced and emerging economies. However, the vulnerability to downside risks are continually casting a shadow of doubt on the sustainability of a complete global economic recovery,  as the global economy is highly networked and interconnected and thus difficult to avoid negative spill-over effects in one region to the rest of the world. Both ASEAN and the EU therefore need to adjust and re-calibrate our policy options to take into consideration these global economic dynamics to cushion their effects. We need to work together to enhance our partnership and jointly address and turn these challenges to opportunities. And today’s Forum can serve that very purpose, taking into cognizance these challenges, through comprehensive deliberations coming up with recommendation on the way forward to a greater, enhanced ASEAN-EU partnership. Please allow me to suggest some ideas as food for thought for your deliberations for a renewed ASEAN-EU economic policy outlook. Firstly, what can ASEAN and the EU jointly do to move the stalled Doha Agenda in the multilateral WTO process? Secondly, as the world economy struggles to pull out of the crisis, collective actions are needed by stimulating regional demand through deeper economic integration and avoid the pitfalls of a globally interconnected world – the much needed impetus for our economies to be more resilient to external shocks, what can ASEAN and the EU jointly do to mitigate global uncertainties and at the same time ensure that we are all able to reap the benefits of economic and financial globalization? Thirdly, both ASEAN and the EU are pursuing their own regional economic architecture initiatives; for ASEAN, the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) together with its six FTA partners – Australia, China, India, Japan, Korea and New Zealand; and for the EU, the Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership with the US and the EU-Japan FTA, how can ASEAN and the EU find synergy while embarking on their own FTA initiatives?
Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,

In concluding, I would like to reiterate that ASEAN-EU renewed commitment to integration and cooperation and collective action is crucial in ensuring both the regions are able to reap the benefits despite the economic slowdown.  For ASEAN, continue support from the EU through the various programmes remains important to help build and strengthen the capacity of ASEAN Member States, including enhancing the capacity of the ASEAN Secretariat to support ASEAN Member States in their community-building efforts. They are to help build an ASEAN more resilient and able to face the economic and globalization challenges with greater confidence.

With that note, I wish the participants fruitful deliberations for a successful Forum.

Thank you.