The ASEAN Economic Ministers (AEM) and the European Union (EU) Trade Commissioner had their Third AEM-EU Consultation on 4 April 2003 in Luang Prabang, Lao PDR. H. E. Pehin Dato Abdul Rahman Taib, Minister of Industry and Primary Resources of Brunei Darussalam and H.E. Mr. Pascal Lamy, European Union Trade Commissioner, co-chaired the Consultation.
ASEAN-EU TRADE AND INVESTMENT RELATIONS
2.The Ministers shared views on the global economic situation and recent developments in the economic integration processes in ASEAN and EU. ASEAN informed Commissioner Lamy of the latest developments in ASEAN economic integration, including the ASEAN Free Trade Area (AFTA), ASEAN Investment Area (AIA), and the status of the current negotiations of ASEAN with some trading partners, e.g. China, Japan, India and the United States, for closer economic partnerships and free trade arrangements. ASEAN also informed Mr. Lamy of its plans to work towards an ASEAN Economic Community, which was envisaged to be similar to the European Community in its early stages.
3.Commissioner Lamy, briefed the ASEAN members on the future enlargement of the European Union. He explained that the new Member States will apply the EU’s Common Commercial Policy in its entirety, including the Generalised System of Preferences (GSP), immediately following their date of accession to the EU. Since ASEAN countries have been expanding their markets to Central and Eastern Europe in the past few years, enlargement is therefore expected to provide substantial added benefits, due to the increased coverage of the GSP to an extra 10 countries, as well as a larger Single Market with 100 million additional consumers, having one set of rules, a single currency and a very open economy. The additional prospects offered by the new Member States are expected to boost bilateral trade between ASEAN countries and the enlarged European Union.
4. The Ministers noted that, because of the global economic slowdown, trade between the two regions declined by 3.4% in 2001, that is, from US$ 99.70 billion in 2000 to US$ 96.36 in 2001. The Ministers also noted that as of the third quarter of 2002, total trade between ASEAN and EU was already valued at US$ 64.6 billion. The EU remains to be ASEAN’s third largest trading partner and second largest source of foreign direct investment. Notwithstanding, the Ministers agreed that there is still much potential for the two regions to intensify economic cooperation and improve trade and investment relations.
INTENSIFYING ASEAN-EU COOPERATION
5. The ASEAN Ministers expressed their appreciation to the European Community for its valuable contribution to the ASEAN Programme for Regional Integration Support (APRIS). The ASEAN Ministers reiterated ASEAN’s interest in drawing on EU’s experiences at it ventures into a higher plane of regional economic integration. The Ministers expressed optimism that the APRIS should be able to provide the catalyst not only to ASEAN’s internal integration process but also in enhancing closer ASEAN-EU economic relations.
6 Ministers recognised the need to take full advantage of existing co-operation schemes, such as the ASEAN-EC Co-operation Programme on Standards, Quality, and Conformity Assessment and the ASEAN-EC Intellectual Property Rights Co-operation Programme, to complement ASEAN’s own efforts to foster regional integration..
7 The Ministers welcomed recent moves to reinvigorate ASEAN-EU relations at the regional level. The ASEAN Ministers particularly welcomed EU’s intention to issue a communication on a new strategy for EU relations with Southeast Asia by May of this year. They viewed EU’s renewed interest as a positive development towards strengthening economic cooperation between EU and ASEAN countries.
8. The Ministers agreed to work towards the establishment of a regional framework that would significantly contribute to this new dynamism in ASEAN-EU trade and investment relationship: the ‘Trans-regional EU-ASEAN Trade Initiative’ (TREATI). They agreed to include expansion of trade and investment flows, through, among other, closer cooperation in trade facilitation, trade, investment and regulatory issues and greater understanding of issues of mutual interest. The Ministers agreed that the TREATI could pave the way for a future preferential trading agreement.
9. Ministers agreed to instruct their senior officials to develop a roadmap for action to be discussed at the next meeting of Senior Economic Officials in Singapore in August 2003, with a view to having activities under TREATI start by 2004.
10. The Ministers also agreed to work towards improving the institutional infrastructure of the AEM-EU Consultations in order to facilitate the channel of communication and coordination between the two regions.
INTERNATIONAL AND REGIONAL ECONOMIC ISSUES
11.At the present time of political turmoil and economic difficulties, Ministers underlined the important role of the WTO to provide stability, transparency and predictability.
12.The Ministers reaffirmed their commitment to the successful conclusion of the negotiations under the WTO Doha Development Agenda (DDA) by the agreed date of the end of 2004. They also emphasized the importance of intensified efforts to ensure that negotiations remain on track and that DDA deadlines and schedules leading to the 5th WTO Ministerial Conference in Cancun, Mexico in September 2003 are met. The ASEAN Ministers also expressed their appreciation for EU’s continued support for the early accession of Cambodia, Lao PDR and Viet Nam to the WTO.
13.The Ministers also welcomed the developments in the Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM) including the establishment of the Task Force to review the ASEM process.
List of Ministers
i)H. E. Pehin Dato Abdul Rahman Taib, Minister of Industry and Primary Resources, Brunei Darussalam;
ii)Mr. Pich Rithi, Deputy Director-General, Ministry of Commerce, Cambodia;
iii)H. E. Mr. Pascal Lamy, European Union Trade Commissioner;
iv)H. E. Ms. Rini M. S. Soewandi, Minister of Industry and Trade, Indonesia;
v)H. E. Mr.Soulivong Daravong, Minister of Commerce, Lao PDR;
vi)H. E. Dato’ Seri Rafidah Aziz, Minister of International Trade and Industry, Malaysia;
vii)H. E. Brigadier General David O. Abel, Minister at the Office of the Chairman of the State Peace and Development Council, Myanmar;
viii)H. E. Mr. MAR Roxas, Secretary of Trade and Industry, the Philippines;
ix)H. E. Brigadier General (NS) George Yeo, Minister for Trade and Industry, Singapore;
x)H. E. Mr. Adisai Bodharamik , Minister of Commerce, Thailand;
xi)H. E. Mr. Truong Dinh Tuyen, Minister of Trade, Viet Nam; and
xii)H. E. Mr. Ong Keng Yong, Secretary-General of ASEAN.