(valid only the actual speech delivered)
Mr. Secretary General, dear colleagues from ASEAN countries, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen,
let me first of all thank you for your active participation in this Forum. We did our best to make your “imprisonment” in this building as light as possible. It was for a good cause. After almost two days of hard labour you must be rather tired and I do not want to prolong your ordeal by inflicting you another long speech. I will try to be very brief.
We had the idea to organize this Forum after reviewing the statistical data on ASEAN and reading the reports that described the potential for growth of this region, strategically positioned at the crossroads of China, India and the Pacific basin. Two pieces of statistical evidence impressed us more than anything else: in the last 10 years, trade between ASEAN and China has multiplied by seven, while trade with the EU has doubled. The modest increase of trade between Italy and ASEAN, on the other hand, is far from matching that kind of growth. The other impressive data is that trade within ASEAN increased by 100% in the last ten years.
We drew two conclusions: the first is that we have been standing aside while others acted to grab a piece of one of the fastest growing market on the planet; the second conclusion is that we were not present inside a huge market that is integrating fast.
Hence, the ASEAN Awareness Forum. For two days, representatives of Italian institutions, businessmen, high representatives of all the ASEAN countries and international organizations have met and discussed opportunities, best practices and success stories, as well as problems and difficulties. You have been comparing experiences in the different sectors, from infrastructures to mechanics, from consumer goods to ICT. To the Italian businessmen who participated I want to say: if you were not aware of ASEAN before, you must certainly be aware by now.
We have acknowledged the positive outcomes of the process of institutional building in the ASEAN community and the progress towards the completion of an Economic Community by 2015. We assessed the role of South East Asia as a key player in the world arena, not solely as an economic giant but increasingly as an essential contributor to peace and security.
This has also been a welcome opportunity to explain to our Asian friends the most recent development in Europe and in Italy and to invite them to look at the European Union as an indispensable partner. The EU-ASEAN Forum in Brunei next month will be a good occasion to deepen and strengthen our inter-regional ties.
Ladies and gentlemen, the ASEAN Awareness Forum was the first of its kind. Italy has been the first European country to think about its relationship with ASEAN in such forward-looking terms. Bur we must now make sure that the good work we have done will be productive, that the seeds we have sown today will produce a good harvest. I know that a number of follow-up events have been envisaged, in Italy and in Asia, and I urge all of you to proceed without hesitations.
Our network of Embassies and Consulates, Trade Offices, Investment desks are at your disposal to assist you and to help carry out the activities highlighted in these two days. In the end, however, it is the businessman’s “animal spirit” that really makes the difference. Italian and Asian entrepreneurs are renowned for their ingenuity and resilience: I am sure they will not miss their chance.
A final word of thanks to Ambassador Melani and his team, who organized this meeting and who worked so hard to make it a success, as well as to those who came a long way to be with us today. Thank you and goodbye.