OPENING REMARKS BY MR LIM HNG KIANG, MINISTER FOR TRADE AND INDUSTRY (TRADE) AT THE 16th ASEAN ECONOMIC MINISTERS – EUROPEAN UNION TRADE COMMISSIONER CONSULTATIONS ON FRIDAY 2 MAR 2018, 2.00 PM, AT SHANGRI-LA HOTEL
Ladies and Gentlemen,
1. On behalf of my delegation, I would like to extend all of you a very warm welcome to Singapore. In particular, I would like to acknowledge the EU Trade Commissioner, Ms Cecilia Malmström, and her distinguished colleagues, who have made the trip from Brussels to join us today.
2. ASEAN and the EU have come a long way in our respective economic integration journeys. Today, both ASEAN and the EU stand as positive examples of the benefits of economic integration, and how it has sparked growth and development in our parts of the world.
3. ASEAN and the EU also share an important relationship. The EU has remained an important economic partner to our region – consistently featuring as ASEAN’s largest source of Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) and as one of our top three largest trading partners.
4. As Singapore assumes the chairmanship of ASEAN in 2018, we are committed to broadening and deepening ASEAN’s engagement with our external partners. This is aligned with the “Global ASEAN” thrust under the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) Blueprint 2025, under which we have agreed to build on past gains from external engagements to further integrate our region into the global economy. Strengthening our relationship with the EU is an important agenda for Singapore and for ASEAN.
5. Through the AEC, ASEAN is now better prepared to engage in deeper trade and investment liberalisation. Between our two regions, the EU has signed two FTAs with inpidual ASEAN Member States, and discussions with several others are ongoing.
6. The time is thus right for us to renew our pursuit of greater region-to-region integration, and in acknowledgment of this, we kick-started discussions to lay out a framework for a future ASEAN-EU FTA at our last Consultations in 2017. This was warmly welcomed by the business community. In its 2017 survey, the EU-ASEAN Business Council found increasing and overwhelming support for the EU to pursue a region-to-region FTA with ASEAN.
7. As to be expected in such an endeavour, there are areas of differences that we will need to overcome. I look forward to constructive engagement over the course of our Consultations today on ways that can help us deepen our region-to-region economic integration, and to help pave the way towards the eventual resumption of negotiations for an ASEAN-EU FTA. Thank you.