BERNAMA - 25 July 2018
By Siti Radziah Hamzah
KUALA LUMPUR, July 25 (Bernama) -- ASEAN member countries need strong political will and right policies in place to facilitate an open border policy and boost intra-ASEAN trade, says Ambassador and Head of the European Union (EU) Delegation to Malaysia Maria Castillo-Fernandez.
She said the open border policy was implemented in Europe and was a big success in real integration and prosperity.
"ASEAN needs to work on more equal standards in terms of trade and production of goods. You also need to have more (precision) on regulations.
"Once you have this, you have to work on customs and immigration cooperation, as well as, different agencies to man the borders.
"Hope this will be possible, one day. It has been a good thing for Europe and I am sure ASEAN and other parts of the world can do it," she told Bernama after delivering a keynote address on "Economic Integration - The EU Experience" here Wednesday.
Castillo-Fernandez said opening up borders should be accompanied by other measures such as connectivity and funds to balance the economies of more developed and poor regional countries.
"In the EU, we have regional funds. The big ones help the others. That is how the others start growing. That happened to our countries, that is happening now to the new countries that are coming to the EU later on.
"You need to accompany this with more connectivity. If you facilitate trade, then you make the goods that are produced in other countries better, (with) less obstacles to create more growth and jobs in a country," she added.
The EU developed a internal single market through a standardised system of laws aimed at ensuring free movement of people, goods, services and capital within the internal market, enact legislation and maintain common policies on trade, agriculture, fisheries and regional development.
Castillo-Fernandez said that the EU was also looking to strengthen its ties with ASEAN especially with the conclusion of free trade agreements (FTAs) with Singapore and Vietnam, respectively.
The economic bloc is negotiating FTAs with several other ASEAN countries such as the Philippines and Indonesia, she added.
"I have been engaging with the Malaysian government so that we could relaunch our FTA negotiations as soon as possible. Hope we can sit down again and start this project because it will be a win-win situation for all our businesses.
"It (EU-ASEAN FTA) is a pillar of our longer term region to region FTA. We have Vietnam and Singapore. We are negotiating with Indonesia and the Philippines.
"We need Malaysia to be come on board. That's the missing link. Now, it's in the hands of the Malaysian government," she pointed out.
In 2017, total merchandise trade between the EU and ASEAN increased substantially by nine per cent to €227.4 billion.
The economic bloc stands as ASEAN's second largest trading partner while ASEAN is the EU's third largest trading partner outside Europe.
Castillo-Fernandez said trade relations between the EU and ASEAN was always dominated by exchanges in industrial products, mechanical appliances, chemical products, transport equipment, optical instruments and many others which indicated the close linkage in the global supply chain.