EU-ASEAN to boost cooperation

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Southeast Asian and European foreign ministers were meeting in Brunei on April 27 and 28 to open a “new chapter” in their relations, with a special focus on the changes in Myanmar and the opportunities they may bring for investors and the political relations of the former pariah state.

“The sense of drive and ambition underpinning the EU-ASEAN partnership has never been stronger,” said Cathy Ashton, the European Union’s High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, prior to the meeting.

Apart from commemorating 35 years of relations between the EU and ASEAN, the two blocs will discuss new free trade agreements for individual countries, a staff exchange scheme for ASEAN and EU institutions, the impact of the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) by 2015, how to further bridge the development gap, and other political-security, economic, and socio-cultural issues.

Total trade between the two blocs, which encompass one-sixth of the world’s population, reached €167 billion in 2011.

“The thriving commercial ties between the EU and ASEAN are an engine for much-needed growth, but we can do much more to unleash their full potential,” Ashton said.

She added that – based on the EU’s own experience with political and economic integration -, the EU fully supports ASEAN’s plans to create the AEC and initiatives that will help to make that vision a reality.

Myanmar in focus

The transformation that is under way in Myanmar will be one of the key topics of the meeting.  Myanmar‘s membership in ASEAN was often a drag in the past, hampering closer ties between the EU and Southeast Asia. After decades of military rule and economic repression, Myanmar has now turned a new leaf since a general election in November 2010, followed by democratic reforms.

Since then, Myanmar has announced to open several sector of the economy to foreign investors, including banking and finance as well as tourism development. It also started to float its currency, the kyat.

The EU in April rewarded Myanmar’s moves by suspending a range of trade, economic, and individual sanctions, for the period of one year, but left an arms embargo intact.

“The remarkable transformation that is under way in Myanmar will further strengthen EU-ASEAN relations,” Ashton said.

Trade relations

“Myanmar has been in the spotlight and maybe that has helped rejuvenate European interest in the region,” Thai Foreign Ministry spokesman Thani Thongphakdi told German press agency dpa ahead of the meeting.

Some 19 EU foreign ministers or deputy ministers attended the meeting which is held every two years. All ten ministers from ASEAN member states – which are Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam – were also present.

“We are very encouraged by the EU attendance,” Thani said.

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Reading Time: 2 minutes

Southeast Asian and European foreign ministers were meeting in Brunei on April 27 and 28 to open a “new chapter” in their relations, with a special focus on the changes in Myanmar and the opportunities they may bring for investors and the political relations of the former pariah state.

Reading Time: 2 minutes

Southeast Asian and European foreign ministers were meeting in Brunei on April 27 and 28 to open a “new chapter” in their relations, with a special focus on the changes in Myanmar and the opportunities they may bring for investors and the political relations of the former pariah state.

“The sense of drive and ambition underpinning the EU-ASEAN partnership has never been stronger,” said Cathy Ashton, the European Union’s High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, prior to the meeting.

Apart from commemorating 35 years of relations between the EU and ASEAN, the two blocs will discuss new free trade agreements for individual countries, a staff exchange scheme for ASEAN and EU institutions, the impact of the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) by 2015, how to further bridge the development gap, and other political-security, economic, and socio-cultural issues.

Total trade between the two blocs, which encompass one-sixth of the world’s population, reached €167 billion in 2011.

“The thriving commercial ties between the EU and ASEAN are an engine for much-needed growth, but we can do much more to unleash their full potential,” Ashton said.

She added that – based on the EU’s own experience with political and economic integration -, the EU fully supports ASEAN’s plans to create the AEC and initiatives that will help to make that vision a reality.

Myanmar in focus

The transformation that is under way in Myanmar will be one of the key topics of the meeting.  Myanmar‘s membership in ASEAN was often a drag in the past, hampering closer ties between the EU and Southeast Asia. After decades of military rule and economic repression, Myanmar has now turned a new leaf since a general election in November 2010, followed by democratic reforms.

Since then, Myanmar has announced to open several sector of the economy to foreign investors, including banking and finance as well as tourism development. It also started to float its currency, the kyat.

The EU in April rewarded Myanmar’s moves by suspending a range of trade, economic, and individual sanctions, for the period of one year, but left an arms embargo intact.

“The remarkable transformation that is under way in Myanmar will further strengthen EU-ASEAN relations,” Ashton said.

Trade relations

“Myanmar has been in the spotlight and maybe that has helped rejuvenate European interest in the region,” Thai Foreign Ministry spokesman Thani Thongphakdi told German press agency dpa ahead of the meeting.

Some 19 EU foreign ministers or deputy ministers attended the meeting which is held every two years. All ten ministers from ASEAN member states – which are Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam – were also present.

“We are very encouraged by the EU attendance,” Thani said.

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