Indonesian President Joko Widodo attended the 45th ASEAN-European Union (EU) Commemorative Summit held in Brussels, Belgium on Wednesday (December 14).

In his remarks at the Summit, President Jokowi stressed that the partnership between ASEAN and the European Union countries must be based on equality and there should be no coercion. “If we want to build a better partnership, that partnership must be based on equality and without coercion. There can no longer be parties who always dictate and think that their standard is better than others,” he stated. Jokowi said that the 45 years of ASEAN and the European Union partnership had produced some good results.

However, he also acknowledged that not all partnerships can always be good so that some differences must be resolved to create a good one. Therefore, Jokowi asked member countries of the European Union to be able to partner in equality with ASEAN countries.

President Widodo had encouraged that the good relation and economic cooperation between the two regional organizations and all countries in the two regions must continue to be strengthened.

Earlier, he also stated that Indonesia has always encouraged closer cooperation between ASEAN and the EU, who has been an important trading partner of ASEAN. “The trade value between ASEAN and the European Union in 2021 reached US$268.9 billion. The value is the third largest after China and the United States,” he said.

Apart from trade, Jokowi also mentioned that the European Union also plays an important role in foreign direct investment in ASEAN region, with an investment value of up to US$26 billion in 2021, which is the second largest investment after China. Vice versa, ASEAN is an increasingly important partner for the EU given the region’s steady economic growth.

For decades, ASEAN has become an economic powerhouse that offers mutually beneficial cooperation since it has the productivity advantage from each country in the region. “All projections say that Southeast Asia will remain a center of growth. Thus, the partnership with ASEAN will certainly be profitable,” Jokowi pointed out.

In fact, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) estimates that the ASEAN region’s economy will remain stable with growth reaching 4.3 percent amid the possibility of a multidimensional crisis at the global level in 2023.

Such an estimation is also reflected on the theme that Indonesia will carry out during its chairmanship in ASEAN next year — “ASEAN Matters: Epicentrum of Growth”, with three priority agendas, namely recovery-rebuilding, digital transformation, and sustainability.

Based on survey from the EU-ASEAN Business Council, some 63 percent of respondents view ASEAN as the region with the best economic opportunities. Meanwhile, 69 percent of respondents expect the ASEAN market to become more important in terms of global revenue in the next two years. Moreover, some 97 percent of respondents expressed hope that negotiation of the ASEAN-EU free trade agreement (FTA) will be accelerated and make good progress to be concluded.

Therefore, regarding the ASEAN-EU long standing relationship, President Jokowi urged all countries in the two regions to build an equal and mutually beneficial partnership in order to recover from the pandemic and the multidimensional crisis that both are currently facing. “We learned an important lesson… that to grow and to prosper together is the only option. We don’t only have to move forward together, but we also have to move forward equally. Let us have a better future together,” Jokowi concluded.

Written by: Yuni Arisandy Sinaga, Editor: Fardah Assegaf (c) ANTARA 2022