KUALA LUMPUR – ASEAN should step up its engagement with the European Union (EU) to further boost bilateral relationship between the two blocs, Minister of International Trade and Industry, Datuk Seri Mustapa Mohamed said today.
“The annual consultation must be complemented with greater intensity of interactions at the working group level,” he said in reading out a statement
after the 13th Asean Economic Ministers-EU Trade Commissioner Consultations, held in conjunction with the 26th ASEAN Summit.
Also present were EU Commissioner for Trade Cecilia Malmstrom and EU Asean Business Council vice chairman Donald Kanak.
The last consultation was held in 2013.
“I would suggest that the engagement with EU be stepped up,” Mustapa said.
He added that ASEAN’s openness and willingness to engage global players in Free Trade Agreements and Economic Partnership Agreements, collectively and bilaterally were paying dividends.
Today, the region is host to major global companies.
Over 20,000 American, Japanese and EU companies have established their base in the region.
“ASEAN welcomes EU investments into the region. The EU is the largest investor in the region with investments totalling US$94 billion from 2010 to 2013. EU’s investment into ASEAN in 2013 constituted 22 per cent – US$27 billion,” he said.
The investments were diversified, he said, adding that many small and medium enterprises were making inroads into ASEAN besides the giant and globally well known EU companies.
ASEAN, he said recognised and appreciated the valuable assistance and capacity building initiatives implemented within the Framework of ASEAN-EU economic and technical cooperation.
“These programmes have benefited the region immensely,” said Mustapa.
EU is ASEAN’s second largest trading partner while ASEAN is EU’s third largest partner outside Europe after the United States and China.
Total ASEAN-EU trade amounted to US$246.2 billion. – BERNAMA