1. How do you see ASEAN? Do you think ASEAN is growing in the long term? In this situation, how does Italy adapt the circumstances?
Since its creation in 1967, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations has demonstrated its potential as a key regional actor. Today, it stands out as a vital global contributor to stability and prosperity. The increasing attention that Italy is devoting to ASEAN reflects the growing awareness in Europe of the importance of the region, in political and economic terms.
We fully support ASEAN’s centrality in the regional architecture. ASEAN’s role in defending open trade and a rules-based multilateralism is fundamental. Particularly now, at a time of global uncertainty, in order to counter the shadow of protectionism and unilateralism.
ASEAN is a rapidly growing reality. The population of all ten Member States reaches about 650 million people, equal to the 8.8% of the world’s population. The combined economies of the ten Countries reached 2.4 trillion € in 2017. ASEAN is continuing to grow at an annual rate of 5%. As a group, ASEAN is already the third largest economy in Asia, and the sixth in the world.
Italy as an export-oriented economy is obviously acutely aware of this transformations. We are the second largest manufacturing country in Europe, after Germany, and the third largest economy within the Eurozone. The launch of the ASEAN Community in December 2015 set an important landmark, for the economic growth and the development of South-East Asia, but also for its relations with the rest of the world.
Italy is a founding member of the European Union. We believe that the EU and ASEAN are a perfect match, as successful experiences in regional integration. We want the EU to develop its relationship with ASEAN. We strongly support the perspective of a comprehensive, ambitious and balanced region-to-region Free Trade Agreement (FTA), which would set a new standard for global trade. The EU is also ready to share best practices in the field of “connectivity”. The EU Single Market can provide some inspiration in this respect.
In short, ASEAN and Europe need to be closer, facing together global challenges and building a sustainable future.
2. How do you see Indonesia position in this changing era?
Italy sees Indonesia as a key strategic partner. Indonesia is the first ASEAN economy, a prominent G20 member and a country with a great potential for continuous growth in the future. We share the same values of pluralism and democracy. Jakarta plays a leading role in the promotion of tolerance, respect for human rights and stability in South East Asia.
Italy and Indonesia believe in the importance of interreligious and intercultural dialogue as an antidote against intolerance, radicalization and discrimination. We can be proud of the very fruitful bilateral cooperation in this field, which started in 2015 in Jakarta with a very successful event on inter-religious dialogue opened by the President of the Republic, Sergio Mattarella. We also share the same commitment to tackle global challenges, such as climate change. We want to foster the use of renewable energy, fight against marine pollution and ensure a sustainable future for next generations. With nearly 7,500 km of coastline, Italy understands and shares the concerns related to the impact of global warming. We must work together to ensure the full implementation of the Paris agreement.
Indonesia stands out as a crucial partner for Italy and the EU within ASEAN, sharing the common vision of regional integration, multilateralism and democracy. Indonesia also has much to offer to contribute to the development of a comprehensive regional and inter-regional “connectivity”.
We are staunch supporters of the strengthening of EU relations with Indonesia. The entry into force of the Partnership and Cooperation Agreement (PCA) has already injected a new momentum into relations between Indonesia and the EU. It was the first PCA concluded by the EU with a South East Asian partner.
3. What will Italy do to increase economic relations with Indonesia?
The economies of Italy and Indonesia are largely complementary: opportunities abound. Our bilateral economic relations have progressively grown in the past few years, although they are still below their full potential.
The growing Italian interest for strengthening economic relations with Indonesia was reiterated during the visit last year of the Italian Minister for Economic Development, Carlo Calenda. My colleague and his Indonesian partners discussed very concrete opportunities for collaboration between our two Countries, from infrastructure to energy, from transport to agroindustry.
Indonesia represents the third largest market for our exports within ASEAN. A good number of Italian companies, including SMEs, are already active in the Indonesian market. But there is still ample scope for strengthening trade and industrial relations. Italian companies can offer cutting edge technology and innovative solutions, that are globally recognized.
The EU-Indonesia Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA) which is currently being discussed, would be instrumental in lowering tariff and non-tariff barriers and in opening mutually beneficial new opportunities for business.
4. In terms of trade value with Indonesia, what is Italy target?
Italy is the third largest trading partner of Indonesia in the EU. Trade has reached the significant value of 2,8 billion € in 2016. However, Indonesia’s demographics and its expected growth in the next decades suggest that there is still much room for improvement. Industrial machinery represent one of our key exports throughout the world: in Indonesia they should find an ever more promising market.
Italian companies are increasingly present in your country in several key sectors, such as energy and infrastructures, consumer goods, financial services: we are confident that this trend is set to consolidate.
We need to facilitate partnerships and common ventures between our economic players. The flow of mutual investment is still relatively limited. We can work together to make it more robust.