Apr 19, 2011

EU welcomes Myanmar in business summit

The European Union will allow the first ASEAN-EU business summit scheduled to begin on May 5 to proceed as “business as usual”.

“With the progress that has been made in Myanmar on various issues, I think we are hoping they’ll come further,” EU Ambassador to Indonesia, Brunei and ASEAN Julian Wilson said Thursday after a discussion on Indonesia-EU bilateral relations.

“We hope to have a dialogue between businesspeople from all ASEAN countries and the European Union and we expect that there will also be businessmen from Myanmar in that audience,” he said when asked if the EU would object to the standard business forum for investors.

The summit is scheduled to take place at the Jakarta Convention Center and is expected to draw around 300 companies from 10 ASEAN countries and the EU, with the Indonesian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (Kadin) appointed as the organizing committee.

The summit will focus on trade and investment opportunities in the two regions in six sectors — agriculture, healthcare, services, automotive, energy and infrastructure.

Wilson said the EU did not want to stop negotiations for a free trade-style agreement with ASEAN only because of Myanmar.

He also said the two blocs could not jump directly into one agreement because ASEAN had no integrated market yet, thus requiring starting from negotiations with individual ASEAN members and hoping to achieve similar overall agreements with each of them.

“The [bilateral] negotiations on FTA are actually going on and we now have four discussions underway, with Singapore, Malaysia, Vietnam and Thailand,” he said.

The EU Embassy’s first secretary on economics and trade Walter van Hattum said the EU would permit normal procedures at the summit because Myanmar is a part of ASEAN.

“It is a business dialogue. I don’t think political issues are on their agenda,” van Hattum said.

Gadjah Mada University expert Mudrajad Kuncoro said all parties concerned had nothing to worry about, including on issues related to Myanmar, as long as the forum benefited all.

University of Indonesia international relations expert Syamsul Hadi said having the EU turn a blind eye proved that the EU’s bargaining power “is decreasing in line with the crisis in Greece that is hurting Europe’s economy as a whole”.

“The EU realizes that if it keeps playing saint with its human rights principles, it will lose in competing against China in taking benefits from ASEAN,” he said.

Foreign Ministry director general for ASEAN cooperation Djauhari Oratmangun said Indonesia warmly welcomed the possible engagement between businessmen from the EU and Myanmar.

Source: The Jakarta Post