The 3rd ASEAN-EU Business Summit kicked off in Hanoi on March 9 with the participation of 700 businesses from the two regions.

As part of the 19th ASEAN Economic Ministers’ Retreat and the 12th ASEAN Economic Ministers-EU Trade Commissioner Consultations, the event was jointly organised by the Ministry of Industry and Trade and the Vietnam Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

Opening the summit, Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung said the event creates conditions for the business community in ASEAN and the EU to enhance cooperation and links, and express their business expectations.

It is even more significant in the context that ASEAN is on the last steps to establishing the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) by 2015, he said.

As a coordinator between ASEAN and the EU, Vietnam supports the development of more intense and effective trade and investment cooperation between ASEAN and the EU in order to reach a new height, the Government leader affirmed.

To reach this aim, the EU and a number of ASEAN countries, including Vietnam, are negotiating bilateral free trade agreements to create a firm ground for future ASEAN-EU comprehensive cooperation, he said.

Since it joined ASEAN in 1995, Vietnam has been an active and responsible member of the group, Dung said, citing the country’s contributions to building ASEAN into a united and strong bloc for prosperity and cooperation in the region.

He also affirmed ASEAN’s important role in Vietnam ’s international integration policy, adding that the country is becoming a gateway for international investors and businesses to access and expand their investment in the region as well as free trade markets between ASEAN and partners.

“We praise and encourage the involvement of the business community in joint efforts to enhance relations between the two blocs,” he said.

The PM described effective investment cooperation and the successful operations of businesses as a foundation and important contribution to ASEAN-EU relations.

Establishing the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) is the bloc’s chief goal, Dung said, noting that the association’s efforts have been applauded by the business community.

The AEC is expected to create favourable conditions for the rotation of investment flows and trade exchanges, and help businesses expand operations, bringing great benefits to the 600 million people of ASEAN countries.

The ten-nation association is also making efforts to cooperate more intensively and extensively with partners in the region and world.

ASEAN always attaches importance to working with the EU for sustainable development and common prosperity, Dung said.

Addressing the event, EU Trade Commissioner Karel de Gucht said the presence of many EU businesses here proves their attention to ASEAN.

He underlined the need for the two sides to facilitate investment, coordinate closely and support businesses in order to realise their common goals.

ASEAN Secretary General Le Luong Minh said despite risks caused by the global economy, ASEAN and the EU still possess favourable conditions for economic development.

He called on the two sides to tighten their coordination to cope with the impacts of the global economic turmoil.

Minh highly valued the significant role of the private sector and proposed that the Government encourages its participation in investment.

At the event, businessmen focused their discussions on opportunities, challenges and experience in investment, as well as running businesses in ASEAN.

They touch upon a wide range of issues regarding agriculture, the auto industry, financial services, information technology-telecommunications, infrastructure, pharmaceutical products and healthcare.

ASEAN-EU trade and investment relations are developing positively with two-way trade increasing to 234.8 billion USD in 2011.

In 2012, the EU topped the list of FDI investors in ASEAN and was ASEAN’s third largest trading partner.

The EU is Vietnam ’s second largest trading partner and leading importer of Vietnamese commodities.

Last year, bilateral trade between Vietnam and the EU stood at 29.1 billion USD, of which Vietnam ’s exports to Europe accounted for 20.3 billion USD. Imports from the EU amounted to 8.8 billion USD.

Vietnam ’s major exports to the EU include footwear, garments and textiles, coffee, wood products and seafood.

By October last year, the EU had 1,781 FDI projects in Vietnam with a total registered capital of 33.4 billion USD, predominately in industry and construction.-VNA