EU, Asean eye trade, se­cu­rity part­ner­ship

The Philippine Star - - BUSINESS - By ALEXIS ROMERO

The European Union (EU) is eye­ing a strate­gic part­ner­ship with the As­so­ci­a­tion of South­east Asian Na­tions (ASEAN) on trade and se­cu­rity as it promised to en­hance its ties with the re­gional bloc based on hu­man rights and rule of law.

European Coun­cil pres­i­dent Don­ald Tusk said ASEAN, like the EU, is vi­tal for sta­bil­ity “in the chal­leng­ing re­gional con­text and the time of geopo­lit­i­cal volatil­ity.”

“The European Union fully sup­ports ASEAN’s ef­forts and its mis­sion. We are work­ing to­wards a strate­gic part­ner­ship to en­com­pass not only trade, in­vest­ment and sec­toral co­op­er­a­tion, but also more se­cu­rity co­op­er­a­tion,” Tusk said dur­ing the 40th ASEAN-EU Com­mem­o­ra­tive Sum­mit yes­ter­day.

“The po­ten­tial for greater en­gage­ment is enor­mous. From trade to cli­mate, from mar­itime se­cu­rity to counter-ter­ror­ism. To­gether, we can make our two re­gions stronger,” he added.

Tusk said the EU re­mains com­mit­ted to “a strong and co­he­sive ASEAN de­vel­op­ing in its own char­ac­ter, in the best in­ter­est of re­gional pros­per­ity, sta­bil­ity and se­cu­rity.”

He said the two blocs could fur­ther en­hance their re­la­tions “based on com­mon in­ter­ests and shared val­ues of democ­racy, hu­man rights, and rule of law is a pri­or­ity for the EU.”

“Many of our in­ter­ests co­in­cide and still many of the chal­lenges we face. Forty years on, I am per­son­ally, very glad we have the ASEAN-EU ready and avail­able as a bridge be­tween Asia and Europe in trou­bling times,” Tusk said.

Tusk said bi­lat­eral trade deals be­tween the EU and Sin­ga­pore, Viet­nam, In­done­sia, Malaysia, Philip­pines, and Thai­land would be the step­ping stones to­wards a fu­ture re­gion-to-re­gion trade agree­ment that can set a new stan­dard for global trade.

“ASEAN and the EU are both eco­nomic pow­ers. Free and fair trade is and al­ways will be in our DNA. To­day, EU in­vestors are the lead­ing providers of for­eign di­rect in­vest­ment to ASEAN coun­tries,” he said.

Tusk also cited the peo­ple-to-peo­ple ex­changes be­tween the two blocs, call­ing it the “best in­vest­ment in the fu­ture.”

“Our re­la­tion­ship is also about in­vest­ing in peo­ple. Each year, over 1,300 ASEAN stu­dents and staff from uni­ver­si­ties re­ceived scholarships in al­most 600 European and al­most 600 European stu­dents and staff trav­eled to ASEAN coun­tries un­der the EU’s Eras­mus Plus pro­gram,” he said.

Tusk said ASEAN and EU need to strengthen its co­op­er­a­tion as most of the is­sues con­fronting some coun­tries have a global im­pact.

“Con­flict in the EU’s neigh­bor­hood have an im­pact on mar­kets and so­ci­eties as well, in­clud­ing here in this re­gion in South­east Asia. And ten­sions and rad­i­cal­iza­tion in the Asia Pa­cific can desta­bi­lize the world be­yond the ori­gin,” Tusk said.

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