The EC-ASEAN Joint Cooperation Committee agreed today on a new approach to EC-ASEAN cooperation, with a clear focus on policy dialogue in areas of mutual interest where the EC can support ASEAN regional integration and other key priorities. It also launched a joint reflection on the future of EC-ASEAN cooperation, which should be completed by mid-2002.

New momentum

The EC-ASEAN Joint Cooperation Committee affirmed the commitment of both sides to strengthening dialogue partnership and to launching a new momentum in the relations.

ASEAN welcomed the European Commission’s new Communication “Europe and Asia: A Strategic Framework for Enhanced Partnerships”1, which identified ASEAN as a key economic and political partner of EC and emphasised its importance as a locomotive for overall relations between Europe and Asia. In this connection, ASEAN also welcomed the EC’s decision to open four new European Commission Delegations in South East Asia (Cambodia, Laos, Malaysia and Singapore) which would further assist in strengthening ASEAN-EC relations.

The JCC undertook a thorough review of EC-ASEAN cooperation since its last meeting in May 1999, particularly the implementation of the Work Programme, the working methods and its operational objectives, so as to ensure added value from the cooperation. It agreed that priority should be given to strengthening policy dialogue in sectors where the EC could contribute to and complement ASEAN’s regional integration efforts.

The JCC welcomed the positive developments in ASEAN, especially the efforts undertaken by ASEAN, both nationally and regionally, towards sustainable economic recovery and to address the social impact of the financial crisis. ASEAN’s commitment to forge regional integration through the Initiative for ASEAN Integration (IAI) and its regional schemes, such as the ASEAN Free Trade Area (AFTA), the ASEAN Investment AREA (AIA), the ASEAN Industrial Cooperation Scheme (AICO) and the e-ASEAN Initiative, would further assist in improving ASEAN’s competitiveness in the New Economy and in attracting trade and investment.

The successful ASEAN-EU Ministerial Meeting in Vientiane in December 2000 set the direction and pace for future ASEAN-EU cooperation. The JCC agreed that policy dialogues should drive the new momentum in EC-ASEAN relations in key sectors of mutual interest, supported where appropriate through EC-funded projects. Immediate priority sectors for implementation will include finance and investment, energy, environment, forestry, transport, customs and information and communications technology. A key element in support of this process will be the ASEAN Project for Regional Integration Support (APRIS), to be launched in 2002. Both sides agreed on the need for greater private sector involvement in all aspects of ASEAN-EC cooperation.

Intensified dialogue

The JCC launched a joint reflection on the future of EC-ASEAN cooperation to buttress the long-standing partnership of more than 20 years. This will examine the areas, structure and mechanisms and future priorities of cooperation as well as the enhancement of the bilateral relations between the EC and the ASEAN member countries as a complement to EC-ASEAN relations. Both sides will now embark on an intensive dialogue to finalise a new work programme by the middle of 2002 and to streamline the structures and mechanisms of cooperation to better meet the needs of the EC-ASEAN dialogue relations.

In this reflection, particular attention will be given to reinforcing dialogue on issues of economic integration and globalisation, as well as to the enhancement of mutual understanding and awareness in all sectors of society. This includes people-to-people contacts – in education, youth, media and culture – and the fight against transnational crime. The potential importance, for cooperation, of synergies generated by enhanced bilateral relations between the EC and the member countries of ASEAN, as a complement to ASEAN-EC relations, will also need to be addressed.

Both sides agreed that the ASEAN Brussels Committee could play a key role in assisting ASEAN in fostering and nurturing the new policy-oriented approach towards ASEAN-EC relations.

The JCC was held in Brussels on 18-19 September 2001. Representatives of ASEAN Member Countries, the ASEAN Secretariat, the European Commission and EU Member States participated. It was co-chaired by Mr Guy Legras, Director General for External Relations of the European Commission and Mr Sayakane Sisouvong, Director General ASEAN-Laos.

The meeting was preceded, on 17 September 2001, by three ASEAN-EC Sub-Committee Meetings on Economic and Industrial Cooperation, Environment, and Forestry. The Sub-Committees reached agreements in a number of sectors for enhanced policy dialogue and cooperation. The ASEAN-EC Science and Technology Sub-Committee will meet in Brussels on 26 September 2001.

The 15th ASEAN-EC JCC meeting will be held in 2003 in Laos.