EU expected to be strong partner to ASEAN: President

Jakarta (ANTARA News) - The European Union is expected to be a strong partner to ASEAN in developing many sectors as it has long experience in economic integration and community building , President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono said.

Speaking at the opening of the first ASEAN-European Union Business Summit, Yudhoyono said ASEAN had learned and would continue to learn from the European experience and there was no doubt that ASEAN and EU were important to each other.

There was also increasing people-to-people engagement like the forum he was attending, he said. Some seven million Europeans visited ASEAN every year, thus increasing the two regions` engagement including the discussions towards a more formal economic cooperation agreement between ASEAN economies and the EU.

According to the president, Indonesia and the European Union have just completed the Indonesia-EU vision report on invigorating EU-Indonesia partnership.

As chairman of ASEAN this year, Indonesia has three key priorities.

First is to ensure significant progress of achieving ASEAN community by 2015. For ASEAN Economic Community, this will mean a process of widening and deepening ASEAN economic integration as an engine of growth.

But Indonesian vision of ASEAN is also to ensure that "we narrow the development gap between ASEAN economies and within the member countries of ASEAN. We need to aspire to a more equitable and inclusive ASEAN," the president said.

"In this respect, I believe infranstructure building and connectivity is not just about efficiency but also about reducing disparities. Again this offers opportunity for investment," Yudhoyono said in his address.

ASEAN will also continue its cooperation and regional mechanism to respond to macro economic, food security and other challenges.

The second priority is to strengthen ASEAN cohesion to craft East Asia wide regionalism and architecture. This involves coordination for macro economic policy, for example; food and energy security challenges, consolidation of the various trade agreement and addressing climate change issues.

The third priority is to ensure that regional agreements and cooperation can contribute to global agreements and governance. The increasing involvement of ASEAN in the international for a should also be aimed not only to foster regional economic and financial growth, but also to encourage investment in the region and improve our resilience towards future crisis.(*)