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|PM Phuc courts Italian businesses|
He made the remarks as he delivered the opening speech at the third high-level dialogue on ASEAN-Italy economic relations held in Hanoi on Thursday, which attracted the participation of more than 300 businesses from Italy and ASEAN.
The leader pointed towards the country's vibrant economy with a 100-million strong market as being a proactive member of ASEAN - one of the world’s most dynamic and fastest-growing regions with combined GDP nearing US$3 trillion.
PM Phuc called on ASEAN, Italian and Vietnamese enterprises to boost co-operation for further growth and prosperity, adding that the economic benefits would grow even more when the EU-Vietnam Free Trade Agreement and the EU-Vietnam Investment Protection Agreement were ratified.
Valerio De Molli, CEO and managing partner of the European House Ambrosetti, presented an analysis of various sectors – including make-up, aerospace and defence, machinery and automation, and ceramics – of which Italy is among the global leaders, despite frequent “negative press”.
The leader of the private consulting firm also said that Italy, one of the EU's founding members, fully supported the EVFTA deal and congratulated Hanoi for hosting the F1 Grand Prix in 2020, at which the famous Italian car manufacturer Ferrari would be a prominent presence.
ASEAN: An emerging market
Hoang Anh Tuan, deputy secretary-general of ASEAN for Political and Security Community, said there had been an emerging trend of EU economies approaching ASEAN and looking for ways to expand their presence in this important part of the world.
“For the UK, they are forward-looking, even though a Brexit deal has not been made. The UK has already been reaching out to ASEAN to explore what kind of partnership the UK is going to have with ASEAN post-Brexit,” Tuan said, urging Italy to do the same and take more concrete steps to boost relations with ASEAN within the framework of the EU-ASEAN high-level dialogue.
Vu Tien Loc, chairman of the Vietnam Chamber of Commerce and Industry, said Italy-ASEAN economic relations were stepping into an important stage, with the two economies sharing various similarities and complementary features, with a vision towards sustainable development.
He stressed Vietnam’s important role in promoting Italy-ASEAN ties given that Vietnam was the biggest trading partner of Italy within the bloc while Italy was Vietnam’s fourth largest partner in the EU.
Vietnam served as an important gateway for Italian enterprises to enter not only Southeast Asia but also China, two important markets, Loc said.
Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte, who is on an official trip to Vietnam, reaffirmed at the meeting that ASEAN was a “fundamental partner” of Italy in Asia.
He also reiterated the country’s belief in multilateral partnerships, and given rising tensions around the world, the European Union, including Italy, and ASEAN needed to work together, act together and deliver a “collective response”.
Experts at the meeting pointed towards industrial sectors like electronic components, textiles and automobile production as areas where Italy could offer its technological know-how to ASEAN members, especially with the raging trade war between China and US forcing manufacturers to relocate to ASEAN countries to avoid the high tariffs.
Vietnam, Thailand and Malaysia were forecast to gain from the trade tensions, particularly in ICT product manufacturing and consumer goods, as well as automotive and parts production. Meanwhile, Singapore and the Philippines would be heavily affected as the former’ “tenuous regulatory and business environment” would mean other countries in ASEAN would be preferred over them, while the latter’s dependence on exports to China would be a problem when the country starts to restrict imports.
At the meeting, the prospects of an EU-ASEAN FTA were also raised and experts agreed that such a deal would be immensely beneficial to the two economies, but Simon Tay, chairman of the Singapore Institute of International Affairs, argued the lingering concerns over varying degrees of labour rights and the ecological harms by palm oil could dampen the likelihood of reaching such deal.
In 2017, ASEAN imported goods worth $10.9 billion from Italy while the European country received nearly $8.8 billion in goods from ASEAN. However, the amount of foreign direct investment from Italy into ASEAN member countries remained modest at $104.2 million and relations between the two sides remain "largely underexplored", heard from the meeting.