Kuala Lumpur, 13 July 2021 – As Europe and Southeast Asia pick up momentum towards recovery, albeit in a continuing uncertain context, the Institute of Diplomacy and Foreign Relations (IDFR), with the support of the European Union (EU), is launching the EU-ASEAN Economic Diplomacy Course. The event brings together government officials from ASEAN countries and global experts to discuss the challenges posed by COVID-19 and the role of the EU-ASEAN partnership in building economic resilience and accelerating sustainable recovery.
As the world’s 5th largest economy, international trade and foreign direct investment (FDI) play a critical role in ASEAN’s development. The COVID-19 pandemic has led to a considerable setback to the region’s achievements in poverty reduction and sustainable development. The global economic slowdown, the effects of which are far beyond anything experienced in nearly a century, threatens to derail ASEAN’s plan to realise the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) 2030.
The EU-ASEAN Economic Diplomacy Course: Free Trade Agreements & EU-ASEAN Economic Cooperation aims to support ASEAN in facing the challenges of Covid-19 pandemic, while ensuring a speedy and sustainable recovery. Held from 13-16 July, the course underscores the importance of global trade as an indispensable force to address the COVID-19 related challenges. In addition to examining the outlook for recovery, experts from various organisations will discuss the role of such multilateral frameworks as the World Trade Organisation (WTO) in addressing the global health and economic crisis.
The primary focus will be on the EU-ASEAN partnership, considered one of the most important factors in both sides’ recovery and sustainable development. The EU is ASEAN’s number one development partner, and its 3rd major trade partner and investor. The EU’s exports to ASEAN countries grew from €54 billion in 2010 to €85 billion in 2019. The EU imports grew even more: 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 % of the total investments made in the region — nearly a quarter of the total FDI stock.
H.E. Mr. Michalis Rokas, Ambassador and Head of the Delegation of the European Union to Malaysia said: “The COVID-19 legacy requires an extraordinary level of collective efforts to jump-start the economy and revive people’s livelihoods. Global trade is a key building block of recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic. 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. No country can confront this crisis without international cooperation, and that is why the EU-ASEAN partnership is so essential to putting us on a firm path to recovery.”
Given the significant contribution made by global trade to poverty reduction in low- and middle-income countries, the course will also pay close attention to the role of Free Trade Agreements (FTAs). 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 1 billion people.
Dato’ Mohd Zamruni Khalid, Director General of the Institute of Diplomacy and Foreign Relations (IDFR), Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Malaysia expressed hope that participants would be able to gain knowledge and valuable insights on the current economic situation as well as on the tools of the 21st century of Economic Diplomacy. As the world is facing with an unprecedented crisis, 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 EU-ASEAN Economic Diplomacy Course: Free Trade Agreements & EU-ASEAN Economic Cooperation, will be conducted online from 13 to 16 July 2021 and attended by government officials from ASEAN countries as well as the ASEAN Secretariat. Participating experts are from international organisations, leading think tanks in Europe and South-East Asia as well as academia.