Jakarta, 5 May 2011

N110505a

ASEAN has and will continue to learn from the European experience in economic integration and community building, as it moves towards the ASEAN Community by the year 2015, said Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono.

President Yudhoyono also said that Europe has a much longer experience in economic integration and community building, and it is timely to increase ASEAN’s engagement – in particular discussions towards a more formal economic integration agreement between ASEAN economies and the European Union (EU).

The President was speaking to hundreds of business and political leaders at the launch of the inaugural ASEAN-EU Business Summit. The EU was represented by its Commissioner for Trade, Mr Karel De Gucht.

On ASEAN partnership with the EU, President Yudhoyono said both sides can work together to manage the world economy, especially on issues of common concern in the G20 and World Trade Organisation.

“The economic growth in Asia is driven by countries such as India and China – and also ASEAN. Although G20 goals have been agreed at the global level, it is important that we see practical result at the regional and bilateral level,” he said.

He emphasised that there is no doubt that ASEAN and the EU are important to each other on many levels. The EU is the second largest trading partner for ASEAN, and its largest investor, while ASEAN is the EU’s fifth largest trading partner. Some seven million Europeans visit ASEAN every year.

He announced that as the ASEAN Chair this year, Indonesia has three priorities for ASEAN – to ensure significant progress of achieving ASEAN Community by 2015; to strengthen ASEAN cohesion to craft East Asia wide regionalism and architecture; and to ensure that regional agreements and cooperation can contribute to global agreements and governance.

President Yudhoyono, however, commended that the ASEAN-EU Business Summit is timely for ASEAN to increase its engagement because building an ASEAN Community has its obstacles. “As we make a final sprint to achieve a true ASEAN Community by 2015, we are not without challenges,” he admitted.