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EU, ASEAN eye trade, security partnership

MANILA, Philippines — The European Union (EU) is eyeing a strategic partnership with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) on trade and security as it promised to enhance its ties with the regional bloc based on human rights and rule of law.

European Council president Donald Tusk said ASEAN, like the EU, is vital for stability “in the challenging regional context and the time of geopolitical volatility.”

“The European Union fully supports ASEAN’s efforts and its mission. We are working towards a strategic partnership to encompass not only trade, investment and sectoral cooperation, but also more security cooperation,” Tusk said during the 40th ASEAN-EU Commemorative Summit yesterday. 

“The potential for greater engagement is enormous. From trade to climate, from maritime security to counter-terrorism. Together, we can make our two regions stronger,” he added.

Tusk said the EU remains committed to “a strong and cohesive ASEAN developing in its own character, in the best interest of regional prosperity, stability and security.”

He said the two blocs could further enhance their relations “based on common interests and shared values of democracy, human rights, and rule of law is a priority for the EU.”

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“Many of our interests coincide and still many of the challenges we face. Forty years on, I am personally, very glad we have the ASEAN-EU ready and available as a bridge between Asia and Europe in troubling times,” Tusk said.

Tusk said bilateral trade deals between the EU and Singapore, Vietnam, Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, and Thailand would be the stepping stones towards a future region-to-region trade agreement that can set a new standard for global trade.

“ASEAN and the EU are both economic powers. Free and fair trade is and always will be in our DNA. Today, EU investors are the leading providers of foreign direct investment to ASEAN countries,” he said.

Tusk also cited the people-to-people exchanges between the two blocs, calling it the “best investment in the future.”

“Our relationship is also about investing in people. Each year, over 1,300 ASEAN students and staff from universities received scholarships in almost 600 European and almost 600 European students and staff traveled to ASEAN countries under the EU’s Erasmus Plus program,” he said.

Tusk said ASEAN and EU need to strengthen its cooperation as most of the issues confronting some countries have a global impact.

“Conflict in the EU’s neighborhood have an impact on markets and societies as well, including here in this region in Southeast Asia. And tensions and radicalization in the Asia Pacific can destabilize the world beyond the origin,” Tusk said.

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