More than 500 business leaders from ASEAN and EU gathered in Phnom Penh at the 2nd ASEAN-EU Business Summit (AEBS).
The AEBS follows the ASEAN model of private sector engagement that provides for dialogues between business-to-business (B2B), government-to-government (G2G) and business-to-government (B2G) – all within the day. Dr. Surin Pitsuwan, Secretary-General of ASEAN, in his welcoming remarks, urged “the business community should seize this window of opportunity to further develop, deepen and widen the economic engagement of both the regions.” In response, the EU Commissioner for Trade, Mr. Karel De Gucht, mentioned that “In Europe we know that in the future 90% of economic growth in the world will happen outside our borders.” A huge proportion of that will happen in Asia and we see this Summit as providing a huge opportunity to enhance our cooperation in four core sectoral areas namely agri-business (food processing and beverages), infrastructure/connectivity (logistics, trade facilitation), manufacturing (automobile and pharmaceuticals) and services (financial services, insurance and information and communication technology or ICT).
Despite the economic uncertainty experienced globally, the EU has been a very important economic partner and is ASEAN’s second largest trading partner after China, accounting for 10.2% of all ASEAN’s total trade in 2010. Trade data further shows that the EU is ASEAN’s largest export market in 2010, accounting for 10.7% of ASEAN’s total exports. The EU continued to be ASEAN’s largest source of foreign direct investment (FDI) in 2010, which stood at US$17 billion – accounting for 23% of the total FDI inflows into ASEAN.
In response to the private sector recommendation, Senior Minister of Commerce, Cambodia, H.E. Cham Prasidh who is also the current Chair of ASEAN Economic Ministers (AEM) Meeting, emphasized how ASEAN underscored the importance of the private sector engagement in playing a crucial role in the ASEAN economic integration process. The Economic Ministers from the ten ASEAN Member States also invited the private sector organizations to meet with the relevant Senior Officials from various Ministries to participate in the discussions in the areas of customs, connectivity and ICT.
The AEBS ended with the B2G session, which offered the unique opportunity for the private sector to have direct interactions with the ASEAN Economic Ministers and the EU Commissioner for Trade. Key recommendations that the private sector raised to the Ministers covered the areas on elimination of the non-tariff barriers, harmonization of the standard and conformity of ASEAN goods and services, ASEAN connectivity and SMEs’ access to finance, among others.
The 2nd ASEAN-EU Business Summit was organized from 1-2 April 2012, by the Royal Government of Cambodia, the Cambodian Chamber of Commerce, the European Business Chamber of Commerce (EUROCHAM), and the ASEAN Business Advisory Council (ASEAN BAC).