Undersecretary Manlio Di Stefano yesterday concluded his official visit to Singapore first and then to Malaysia, the first visit by a representative of the Italian Government to Southeast Asia since the outbreak of the pandemic.
“Last year Italy entered into an Italy-ASEAN development partnership and will shortly submit its official action plan structured into specific sectoral cooperation programmes,” said Undersecretary Di Stefano. He added: “We are all in favour of ASEAN’s increasing presence, both at commercial and political level as well as in the protection of human rights, and we intend to work in this direction in our role as the Association’s Development Partner.”
Undersecretary Di Stefano’s visit to Singapore last Thursday began with a long meeting with the Senior Minister of State in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Sim Ann, which especially focused on the ASEAN’s development and integration perspectives and on the crisis in Myanmar. The meeting offered an important opportunity to reaffirm the friendship relationship between Italy and Singapore and to promote scientific and technological cooperation through closer sectoral exchanges, especially in digital sector, as agreed upon by Undersecretary Di Stefano and Senior Minister of State Sim Ann. As Undersecretary Di Stefano said, Singapore, in addition to being a city projected into the future and the region’s largest logistic and financial hub, is one of the ASEAN’s nerve centres.
In Singapore, Undersecretary Di Stefano also attended the signing of two important economic agreements aimed at supporting the expansion of Italian companies in the local market. The first is a strategic partnership agreement between the Italian Chamber of Commerce in Singapore (ICCS) and Singapore’s Economic Development Board (EDB), which launched “a special dialogue aimed at intensifying the exchange of talents and innovation between our two Countries,” said Undersecretary Di Stefano. The second is an important Memorandum of Understanding between the Italian Trade Agency ICE and the Singapore Manufacturing Federation (SMF), a historic association that groups together approximately 5,000 Singapore-based companies with a view to promoting business interests and investments. “It is essential to develop new tools to facilitate the sharing of information and business opportunities, remove barriers to investments, promote trade fairs, missions, business forums, conferences and training activities,” said Di Stefano.
Yesterday, in Kuala Lumpur, Undersecretary Di Stefano had a dense agenda of working meetings at the Ministries of Foreign Affairs, of Defence and of Trade. In some of the Undersecretary’s statements, he defined Malaysia a “friendly Country and an excellent economic partner”. He also said: “Italy supports Malaysia’s growingly proactive role in the ASEAN and agrees on the need to keep the region’s complex balance, already destabilized by the crisis in Myanmar” and “Italy supports Malaysia’s stand on Myanmar, on the basis of which the Country will not be able to politically participate to the ASEAN’s activities as long as the military junta that has been governing the Country since the coup in 2021 will not come to a compromise.”
At the meeting with the Ministry of Trade, the Italian delegation encouraged relaunching the negotiations for the Free Trade Agreement between the European Union and Malaysia that are blocked since 2012. “We have also agreed to strengthen our bilateral industrial and technological collaboration in strategic sectors such as aerospace and high-tech, also by entering into partnership agreements between national space agencies and bodies,” said Undersecretary Di Stefano at the end of the meeting.