29 October 2012 - President Benigno S. Aquino III will attend the 9th Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM9) in Vientiane, Lao People’s Democratic Republic on November 5 and 6.
The President’s attendance signals the Philippines’ renewed focus on Europe and reaffirms the importance of the region as an economic and political partner.
Europe is the country’s third largest trade partner after North America and Asia. In 2011, trade with Europe amounted to about 13 billion USD accounting for about 12% of Philippine total trade to the world.
In the same period, investments from the European Union (EU) alone reached 33.3 billion pesos, primarily coming from the Netherlands, the United Kingdom (UK), France and Germany. Switzerland, a non-EU member country but an incoming ASEM partner, is also a major investor. In 2011, Swiss investments in the country amounted to 2.049 billion pesos.
Russia, Finland, and Spain are new investment niches that the Philippines is set to explore.
Political cooperation between Europe and the Philippines is strong. The EU, for instance is a member of the International Monitoring Team of the GPH-MILF Peace Process, while the UK is part of the International Contact Group of the same. Norway, for its part, is the facilitator of the GPH-CNN Peace Talks.
European partners were among the very first to welcome and express support to the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro. The President will seize the opportunity provided by ASEM to engage relevant European partners in order to firm up support for the development of the Bangsamoro.
At the summit, President Aquino will exchange views with counterparts from the two regions on the Eurozone crisis, trade and investment facilitation, energy and food security, disaster management, counter-terrorism, migration, and regional issues, among others.
The President will highlight the country’s accomplishments in good governance and inclusive growth, while calling for an enhanced Asia-Europe economic partnership in the face of global economic and financial uncertainties.
He will also underscore the importance of upholding the rights of migrant workers, especially at this time of socio-economic difficulties in a number of host countries in Europe.
The President is also expected to conduct bilateral meetings at the sidelines of the summit with counterparts from the European Council, European Commission, Italy, Norway, Poland and Switzerland.
ASEM is a dialogue process started in 1996 with the main objective of forging a comprehensive partnership between Asia and Europe. It is currently composed of 48 partners – all 10 ASEAN countries, 9 other Asian countries, the 27 member states of the European Union, the European Commission and the ASEAN Secretariat.
The Philippines is a founding partner of ASEM. Norway, Switzerland, and Bangladesh will be admitted into the forum at the ASEM9 in Vientiane.
ASEM is the only forum where Europe and Asia engage one another at the highest levels of government (i.e. heads of government/heads of state).
The 8th Asia-Europe meeting was held in Belgium in 2010.