The EU-ASEAN Economic and Policy Forum took place in Jakarta, Indonesia on April 18, creating a chance for the two sides to share experience in their economic integration.

Nearly 200 delegates from 48 countries, including diplomats, government officials and scholars attended the event, which was jointly held by the Global Europe, ASEAN Secretariat, the EU Delegation to the ASEAN, Germany’s Konrad Adenauder Foundation.

Addressing the opening ceremony, Ambassador Julian Wilson, Head of the EU Delegation to ASEAN, Indonesia and Brunei noted that EU is now the second largest trade partner of ASEAN after China, with two-way trade in 2012 totalling 208 billion EUR (over 270 billion USD). Meanwhile, the 10-member association ranks fifth among EU’s major partners, he added.

Wilson said EU and ASEAN have also cooperated closely at the ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF), together with other dialogue partners, to settle issues of mutual concern as well as those related to common interest in international security on the basis of constructive dialogues and consultations through trust building and preventive diplomacy in Asia-Pacific.

As EU and ASEAN have abundant potential to cooperate, the two sides should extend their already close ties in economics, trade and investment to politics-security, culture-society, especially in the context that Europe is fending a public debt crisis and economic motto is shifting from the West to the Asia-Pacific, said Wilson.

ASEAN Secretary-General Le Luong Minh said the event is a chance for the two sides to share their experience in community building in the process of connectivity and integration, facilitating public consultations, while increasing mutual understanding between the two regions, especially among policy makers and the private sector.

According to Minh, despite the great risks and challenges that both ASEAN and EU are facing, the EU-ASEAN ties in politics-security, culture-society and economics have increasingly been consolidated and developed.

Participants at the forum discussed a wide range of issues, including EU’s integration lessons to share with ASEAN, impacts of the European public debt crisis on ASEAN, and key challenges that the association faces in the Asia-Pacific economic integration, as well as the FTA negotiations between EU and ASEAN member countries.

They also talked the ASEAN-EU plan of actions for the 2013-2017 period, potential and opportunities for the EU as a factor in Asia’s security, the formulation of long-term policies and strategies to ensure the engagement of EU in the Asia-Pacific economic integration process.

Besides, the forum also gave space for EU’s supporting programme for ASEAN in 2013, which is included in the Banda Seri Begawan Plan of Actions, with an aim to enhance regional cooperation, maintain peace, security and stability, with ASEAN playing the central role in a forming East Asia structure.

The EU-ASEAN Economic and Policy Forum is considered a venue for both sides to share with each other integration experiences and discuss bilateral relations in the changing global economic order, as well as cooperation prospects of EU-ASEAN relations in the new era.

Statistics have shown that in the 2008-2010 period, the EU accounted for 21 percent of the total foreign direct investment in ASEAN, and 10 percent of ASEAN’s total foreign trade.

Source: VNA