First EU ambassador to ASEAN looks to bolster ties
After the European Union (EU) mission to ASEAN official inauguration in Jakarta on Tuesday, the regional bloc aims to take its partnership with ASEAN to the next level.
The newly appointed and first dedicated EU ambassador to ASEAN, Francisco Fontan Pardo, said on Tuesday that the union aimed to move forward into a strategic partnership with its Southeast Asian counterpart, with the ultimate goal for the EU-ASEAN being a free trade agreement (FTA).
“We have a very strong relationship with each member of ASEAN […], but, at the same time, we have more regional integration, single market-approach, that we will discuss or work more on the bi-regional relationship […],” he said during the official inauguration ceremony at the EU delegation’s office in Jakarta.
Speaking at the same event, ASEAN secretary-general Le Luong Minh said that ASEAN always considered EU one of its most important partners, particularly with the region moving to realize its 2025 vision for a more integrated people-centered region.
“I’m confident that the establishment of the EU diplomatic mission to ASEAN and the appointment of the ambassador to ASEAN will continue to further enhance ASEAN-EU cooperation […],” he said.
Similarly, the Foreign Ministry’s director for ASEAN intraregional cooperation, Derry Aman, said ASEAN-EU cooperation had progressed throughout the years and that Indonesia — and ASEAN in general — was looking forward to the road map for the strategic partnership between ASEAN and the EU.
The European External Action Service (EEAS) and the European Commission have adopted a joint communication on the “EU and ASEAN: a partnership with a strategic purpose”, containing a number of points, such as making trade relations with ASEAN more ambitious for region-to-region FTA and more than doubling EU financial support for ASEAN integration.
In its current budget cycle for 2014 to 2020, the EU will support ASEAN integration and the ASEAN secretariat with ¤170 million (US$184 million), more than double the amount under the previous cycle that was close to ¤70 million during the 2007-2013 period.
In terms of trade and investment, the EU is among the largest partners for ASEAN. It is ASEAN’s second-largest trading partner, with two-way trade in goods and services between the regions hitting ¤238 billion in 2013, according to EU data.
The 28-member bloc’s foreign direct investment in ASEAN accounted for 24 percent of FDI pouring into ASEAN.
EEAS director general for budget and administration Patrick Child said the EU would promote its bilateral relations with ASEAN member countries before eventually reaching the goal for the region-to-region agreement.
“In the months to come, we intend to advance on our bilateral promotion relations while keeping the regional trade agreement as the final objective,” he said.
ASEAN and the EU began negotiating for a bi-regional arrangement in 2007, but the talks have not progressed much since then. With the fruitless attempts at the regional level, the EU then initiated bilateral negotiations with ASEAN member states.
The EU has concluded an FTA with Singapore and is negotiating with several other ASEAN countries, such as Vietnam, Thailand and Malaysia. It is also in the process of making a comprehensive economic partnership agreement (CEPA) with Indonesia.
Under the administration of President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo, Indonesia intends to soon resume talks on the Indonesia-EU CEPA.
Trade Minister Thomas Lembong said on a separate occasion on Tuesday that the President had said at a Cabinet meeting that he wanted talks with the EU to be concluded within two years.
“The President has given the Trade Ministry two years to conclude the talks with the EU,” he said