Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade, Charlie Flanagan, TD, today discussed measures to boost trade and investment between Ireland and Asia with Foreign Ministers from South East Asian countries.
The Minister met representatives of all the Southeast Asian states in Brussels, including Indonesia, where Ireland will be open a new embassy in autumn to increase trade, investment and political links.
Speaking after the meeting, he said: “Indonesia is South-East Asia’s largest economy, with a population of 250 million people. It has significant economic potential for Ireland in the commercial area and good potential in the tourism, food and education sectors.
“Ireland is determined to increase the number of Irish firms doing business in Indonesia, where our total merchandise trade last year was valued at over €160 million. Having an embassy in Indonesia will provide certainty for business that resources are in place to support them to increase trade, create jobs and drive our economic recovery, which has been export-led.”
Minister Flanagan highlighted Ireland’s strong trade relationships with other South-East Asian countries: In 2013 our total trade with Singapore was almost €1 billion, while our current trade with Malaysia stands at €405 million.
“While these figures are impressive, I am confident that we can do more to build our mutually-beneficial trade and investment relationships. Ireland is strategically focused on increasing trade with high growth Asian markets. Improving our links with Asian countries is vital for our future prosperity,” he said.
Minister Flanagan updated his Asian counterparts on Ireland’s strong recovery: “In Ireland, optimism has returned, with GDP growing at 4.1 percent in the first quarter of 2014. We are optimistic that this strong growth signals a wider pick-up across Europe. Returning confidence has allowed the Irish Government to plan for the future, including by opening three new diplomatic missions in Asia this year.”
In addition to an embassy in Jakarta, Ireland will open an embassy in Bangkok and a consulate general in Hong Kong this year. Ireland’s new missions in Asia will increase our engagement on a range of political and economic issues.
Minister Flanagan was attending a meeting of EU and ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) foreign ministers, which has a strong focus on trade. ASEAN represents the EU’s third largest trading partner after the US and China. EU companies invest an average of €13 billion annually in the region.
Ministers also expressed their shock and sadness at the loss of lives on MH17 and called for all those directly and indirectly responsible to be brought to justice. They also discussed political developments in Thailand, Myanmar and Indonesia and agreed to work towards improved connectivity between the EU and Asia.
23 July, 2014
Note for editors
• The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) was formed in 1967 by Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, and Thailand to promote political and economic cooperation and regional stability. Brunei joined in 1984, shortly after its independence from the United Kingdom, and Vietnam joined ASEAN as its seventh member in 1995. Laos and Burma were admitted into full membership in July 1997 and Cambodia became ASEAN’s tenth member in 1999.
• Today’s meeting was co-chaired by ASEAN and the EU. The main outcome of joint co-chair statement was:
• Agreed to step up cooperation to enhance connectivity between the two regions and support the implementation of the Master plan on ASEAN Connectivity, building on the visit by the ASEAN Coordinating Committee on Connectivity to Belgium and Luxembourg in February 2014;
• Welcomed the EU commitment to more than double dedicated support for ASEAN’s institution building and 2015 Community-building goals to €170 million in the period 2014-2020. Overall EU aid to South East Asia, including through bilateral assistance, will increase from €2.2 billion (2007-2013) to close to €3 billion (2014-2020);
• Agreed to enhance maritime security and safety cooperation such as information sharing and capacity building, building on the High level Dialogue on Maritime Cooperation which was held in November 2013;
• Agreed to work towards the upgrading of the partnership to a strategic one and tasked their senior officials to develop a roadmap for this goal.
• The EU has prioritised Free Trade Agreements with ASEAN countries showing the growing importance of the region in the world economy.