Secretary-General of ASEAN Dr. Surin Pitsuwan and Italian Minister of Foreign Affairs Mr. Giulio Terzi this week exchanged views on major aspects of cooperation between ASEAN and Italy and the EU. Italy expressed its strong interest in furthering economic linkages with ASEAN in areas it has expertise and advantages in machineries, food, fashion and furniture. Italian Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) are keen to further their business with ASEAN. As the crisis in the Euro zone may have bottomed out, businesses in the EU and Italy once again are eager to enter the ASEAN market.

Dr. Surin suggested ASEAN as a promising market for Italian and EU businesses, especially in light of ASEAN’s ongoing efforts toward a single market and production base under the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) by 2015. ASEAN is an emerging market of 600 million people, with a combined ASEAN Gross Domestic Product at Current Prices in 2010 reaching US$ 1.8 trillion. ASEAN also  has  an expanding middle class with a higher per-capita income and purchasing power.

Among several initiatives discussed, Dr. Surin suggested Italy to establish an ASEAN-Italy Chamber of Commerce to further promote trade between ASEAN and Italy.

ASEAN and the EU have a thriving business relationship. The EU has been the number one source of foreign direct investment (FDI) to ASEAN for the past several years. Total FDI from the EU to ASEAN in 2010 stood at over US$ 17 billion. Total ASEAN-EU trade in 2010 was US$ 208.5 billion; accounting for 10.2% of total ASEAN trade with its Dialogue Partners.  The EU is ASEAN’s second largest trading partner after China.

In 2010, 7 million visitors arrived from the EU to ASEAN, accounting for 9.5% of total visitor arrivals to ASEAN. For the past decade, around 300,000 Italian tourists have been visiting ASEAN countries yearly.

Dr Surin attended the Ministerial Conference in Rome to promote ASEAN awareness and advance the potential of ASEAN as a market and investment destination for Europe. The high-profile Conference was hosted by the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and well attended by senior officials of ASEAN Members States, the European Commission, the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank.

SG-Italian b