On April 10, 2018, H.E. Cristiano Maggipinto, the Ambassador of Italy delivered a public lecture at the Asia-Europe Institute (AEI) titled “Italy and ASEAN: Political, Cultural and Economic Prospects of a New Relationship”. The Jean Monnet Ambassador Lecture series is a regular lecture series hosted by the AEI with the aim of fostering dialogue and knowledge sharing between the EU diplomatic mission in Malaysia and the general public as well as students and academicians in particular.
The ambassador’s timely lecture in AEI is also reflective of the country’s growing presence in the region as the second ‘High Level Dialogue on ASEAN Italy Economic Relations’ is to be held in Singapore on April 11, 2018. Previously, the first High Level Dialogue was held in Jakarta on May 15 and 16, 2017. According to the ambassador, there is a wide margin for growth in the relationship between Italy and ASEAN. Currently, Italy is ASEAN’s 17th largest investor and 22 largest trading partner. However, Italy’s presence in the region has been growing. For example, the ambassador pointed out that Italian companies in Malaysia have doubled in the last 5 years from 49 to slightly over a hundred. There has also been a 31.7 percent increase in trade from Italy to Malaysia.
Italy’s interest in the region has been growing for several reasons. In the wake of the 2008/9 economic downturn in the United States and the West, ASEAN’s economy has been growing steadily. Slower business prospects in the West has brought many Italian companies seeking opportunities in the region. The ambassador went on to remark that although it might have been an economic necessity in their venture to the region, but for many, ASEAN has become a strategic choice and he cites the increased convenience of investing in Malaysia as an example.
The ambassador concluded his talk by detailing three components that he believes ASEAN countries needed in order to grow. Firstly, an increase in connectivity; be it from infrastructure development to ‘people-to-people’ connectivity. Secondly, ASEAN countries need to develop a technological edge in this ever-changing world, and thirdly, ASEAN (as it has been doing) should continue seeking out partnership at all level. The ambassador believes that Italy can provide a positive contribution to all three aspects. Not only as an individual nation partner but also in furthering a partnership with other EU member nations as well.
- Prepared by Dr. Nurliana Kamaruddin