Opening Remarks By Minister For Foreign Affairs Dr Vivian Balakrishnan at the Press Conference of the 22nd ASEAN-EU Ministerial Meeting, 21 January
Thank you Federica,
Thank you members of the media for being here,
It is a long way to travel from Southeast Asia to the heart of Europe, but we are here and we just concluded a very successful 22nd ASEAN-EU Ministerial Meeting. We believe that we represent two of the most successful regional organisations in the world. Obviously, we are in two very geographically different areas; we organise ourselves quite differently � and that is not surprising given our vast differences in national circumstances, but we share values, and we share common cooperating principles. So in a sense, the EU and ASEAN are quite natural partners. Amidst the anti-globalisation rhetoric of recent years, I think it makes it even more important that the EU and ASEAN can get together on a common platform and double down on our cooperation. In fact, the EU was ASEAN’s first external partner, and established relations way back in 1972, and this was subsequently elevated to a full Dialogue Partnership in 1977.
I say all this so that you will understand that our cooperation is longstanding, comprehensive, and in fact has been growing steadily in the decades. On the economic front, the EU is a key economic partner for ASEAN. It has consistently been ASEAN’s largest source of foreign direct investment � and this is over decades, and has also ranked among our top three trading partners. In fact, as of today, it is the second largest trading partner for all of ASEAN.
ASEAN and the EU have also been contributors to international and regional peace, security, and stability. As we take our partnership to greater heights amidst this increasingly complex, volatile and contested global environment, we will continue to explore new areas where we can cooperate. Some of these areas have been listed in our Joint Statement, which I believe you all should have a copy of. We have much to share and learn from each other as we tackle these common challenges including upholding multilateralism, cybersecurity, maritime security and climate change. We look forward to the expeditious conclusion of an ambitious, mutually beneficial, and forward-looking Comprehensive Air Transport Agreement. We also welcome ongoing efforts to explore the resumption of negotiations for an ASEAN-EU Free Trade Agreement. These initiatives would send a clear signal of ASEAN and the EU’s continued commitment to multilateralism, economic integration, and trade liberalisation. It also sends a mutual vote of confidence in the growth prospects in our respective areas. We are looking forward to increasing cooperation in counter-terrorism and in combatting transnational crime as well, and we look forward to the conclusion and the adoption of the ASEAN-EU Work Plan to Combat Terrorism and Transnational Crime.
Cybersecurity, an increasingly salient field in today’s age of digitalisation and e-commerce, is another area where we can and indeed have to cooperate closely. ASEAN welcomes the EU’s leadership in the area of climate change, and we can explore synergy in the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, including close cooperation on environmental issues. We have, and will continue to work constructively to tackle global issues, demonstrating the value of a regional approach � indeed, an international approach � to the common problems facing humanity.
There is, therefore, a rich agenda ahead for ASEAN-EU relations. As I said earlier, our relations have been nurtured over 40 years, and we can and we must continue to build upon it. I’m glad that we have today agreed in principle to upgrade our relations to a Strategic Partnership, and we look forward to formalising this at an appropriate time in the future. I think you can gather from my comments that in fact, de facto, this is already a Strategic Partnership � valuable, longstanding and with much potential for the future.
As coordinator of the ASEAN-EU relationship, Singapore is committed to working with the EU and all our partners across the EU, as well as our ASEAN Member States to explore ways to continue to deepen our cooperation, and to signal to the world our collective commitment to global peace, stability and prosperity, and to achieve this through regionalisation, multilateralism, and a common belief in a rules-based global world order.
Source: Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Government of Singapore