Vietnamese Ambassador to Belgium Nguyen Van Thao, who is also head of Vietnam’s Delegation to the E.U., made the statement at a workshop to review the relations between ASEAN and E.U. over the last four decades in Brussels on March 21.
Speaking on behalf of ASEAN at the discussion on trade cooperation, Thao highlighted the great potential for the two sides to further step up trade cooperation, which he said is a driver of the ASEAN – E.U. relations.
According to the diplomat, the two sides are now the third largest trade partners of each other. They have mutual complementarity in key export products, and at the same time have the needs and policies to diversify supply chains. The E.U. is also the second biggest foreign investor in ASEAN with more than 380 billion EUR invested in ASEAN as of 2021.
He proposed that the two sides should set up a free trade agreement (FTA) on the basis of bilateral FTAs that the E.U. has signed with ASEAN member nations, including Vietnam.
The diplomat called on the E.U. to increase its support for ASEAN and promote connectivity with the bloc by supporting the implementation of the Master Plan on ASEAN Connectivity (MPAC) and the E.U.’s Global Gateway Program.
Efforts need to be taken by both sides, and dialogue should be intensified to narrow the gap and enhance understanding and respect for each other’s culture, Thao said.
Addressing the event, Vice President of the European Parliament (E.P.) Heidi Hautala said ASEAN and the E.U. have enjoyed an equal partnership in which trade is the main driving force.
Hautala stressed the need to effectively implement results of the E.U. – ASEAN Commemorative Summit and the E.U. – ASEAN Plan of Action 2023-2027.
The E.U. is willing to cooperate with ASEAN for mutual benefits, towards the goal of sustainable development, she said.
Jan Zahradil, Vice-Chair of the E.P.'s Committee on International Trade welcomed the idea of an E.U. – ASEAN parliamentary council, saying that the long-term goal of FTAs between regions should not be abandoned.
Participants said that there is a lot of untapped potential in the ASEAN – E.U. relations, so the two sides should further foster all-around cooperation to bring practical benefits to their people.
Jointly held by the ASEAN Brussels Committee (ABC), the E.P. and the EIAS, the event saw the participation of 200 delegates from the E.P., the E.U.'s European External Action Service (EEAS) and the European Commission (E.C.), embassies, universities, research institutes and businesses in Brussels.
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