Jakarta, 5 May 2011

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An inaugural Business Summit between ASEAN and the European Union, provided a rare platform for the private sectors to exchange views with their governmental decision makers, on doing business in Southeast Asia.

The first ASEAN-EU Business Summit, held here ahead of this weekend’s 18th ASEAN Summit, was hosted by Indonesia – the ASEAN Chair this year. It attracted hundreds of business leaders from both sides, and saw the discussions of issues such as ASEAN-EU trade relations, while identifying new business and investment opportunities on both sides.

President of the Republic of Indonesia, Dr Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, who opened the Business Summit, said the event is timely for ASEAN to continue learning from the Europeans.

“We need to increase ASEAN’s engagement in discussions towards a more formal economic integration agreement between ASEAN economies and the EU. They have a much longer experience in economic integration and community building – they can be a strong partner with ASEAN to develop together,” he said.

Secretary-General of ASEAN, Dr Surin Pitsuwan, said business-to-business and the business-to-government dialogues at the summit, demonstrates ASEAN’s efforts to promote greater synergies in improving the mutual trade and investment climate with the EU.

“Making ASEAN a conducive and welcoming business destination is important. But it is more than business and profits. This is a testimony of global confidence in the leadership of ASEAN Chair. These are exciting times for ASEAN,” he said.

The Summit also saw ASEAN Economic Ministers, and the EU Commissioner for Trade Mr Karel de Gucht, engaged in a lively feedback session with the business leaders. The issues discussed include opportunities in doing business together, as well as the steps taken by the ASEAN and EU Governments to enhance trade and economic relations. Sector-specific dialogues in the areas of agri-food, automotive, services, healthcare and infrastructure were also held concurrently.

The EU is the largest source of investment flows into ASEAN – ASEAN received US$7.2 billion from the EU, or 18.4 percent of the total Foreign Direct Investment inflows into ASEAN in 2009. The EU remains ASEAN’s top export destination, with a share of 11.2 percent in 2009.

In terms of total trade, the EU is the second most important trading partner of ASEAN. In addition to business transactions, the EU has allocated a €70 million assistance to ASEAN for the period 2007 to 2013.

The EU has been a Dialogue Partner of ASEAN since 1977. The idea for the ASEAN-EU Business Summit was mutually agreed upon by both sides during the ninth Consultation between the ASEAN Economic Ministers and Mr De Gucht, in Da Nang, Viet Nam on 27 August last year.