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KUALA LUMPUR, July 16 -- The partnership between European Union (EU) and ASEAN is essential to put both parties on a firm path to recovery post-COVID-19 pandemic, said Ambassador and Head of Delegation of the EU to Malaysia Michalis Rokas.
He said no country can confront this crisis without international cooperation, and hence global trade is a key building block of recovery from the pandemic.
“The COVID-19 legacy requires an extraordinary level of collective efforts to jump-start the economy and revive people’s livelihoods.
“Trade can create jobs, generate income, improve people’s quality of life, and present many other opportunities that are crucial for the long-term social and economic transition. This activity underpins the EU’s steadfast commitment to multilateralism as well as an open and rules-based trade,” he said in a statement from the Delegation of EU to Malaysia in conjunction with an economic diplomacy course for ASEAN jointly organised by EU and Malaysia’s Institute of Diplomacy and Foreign Relations (IDFR).
Meanwhile, IDFR’s Director General Datuk Mohd Zamruni Khalid said it is important that both ASEAN and EU strengthen themselves with the means, knowledge and understanding learned from each other so that their economy remain resilient to ride the testing times.
The course, titled “Free Trade Agreements & EU-ASEAN Economic Cooperation”, was held online from July 13 to July 16 and attended by government officials from ASEAN countries as well as the ASEAN Secretariat, experts from international organisations, and leading think tanks in Europe and South-East Asia as well as academia.
The statement said the course – aimed at supporting ASEAN, the world’s fifth largest economy, in facing the challenges of COVID-19 pandemic while ensuring a speedy and sustainable recovery – focused on EU-ASEAN partnership and also the role of Free Trade Agreements (FTAs).
The course underscored the importance of global trade as an indispensable force to address the COVID-19 related challenges.
The EU is ASEAN’s number one development partner, and its third major trade partner and investor. The EU’s exports to ASEAN countries grew from €54 billion in 2010 to €85 billion in 2019, while the EU imports had increased from €72 billion to €125 billion during the same period.
Total Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) inflow of €131.6 billion from the EU accounts for 22 per cent of the total investments made in the region – nearly a quarter of the total FDI stock.
To date, the EU has entered into FTAs with two ASEAN countries – Singapore and Vietnam. In the longer term, these bilateral FTAs will act as building blocks for the establishment of a region-to-region FTA, which remains the EU's ultimate objective.
“By bringing together two of the world's largest economies, such an agreement would create a free trade area with a combined market of more than one billion people”, it added.
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