Deputy Foreign Minister Bui Thanh Son attended the ASEAN Awareness Forum in Rome on March 22 and 23.

The forum aimed to introduce ASEAN countries’ potential and opportunities to Italian and European businesspeople to step up the two sides’ economic ties.

Addressing the event, Deputy FM Son said the relationship between ASEAN and the EU has constantly developed in various fields such as economics and trade, politics and security, culture and society and development cooperation.

At present, ASEAN is the third-ranked trade partner of the EU after the US and China, while the EU is the second-ranked trade partner of ASEAN after China, Son said.

The EU is also the biggest investor in ASEAN, making up almost 20 percent of ASEAN’s FDI, he said.

As coordinator of ASEAN-EU economic relations, Vietnam will facilitate the dialogue and cooperation process to further expand trade and investment between ASEAN and the EU, he said.

According to Deputy FM Son, ASEAN needs investment of more than 7.5 trillion USD for infrastructure of the region and its member countries to implement the master plan on ASEAN connectivity.

The implementation of the plan, especially in infrastructure development, will create huge business opportunities, benefitting ASEAN, partner governments and businesses involving in the project through the private public partnership model, he said.

Deputy FM Son said two-way trade between Vietnam and Italy fetched 2.5 billion USD last year and Italian businesses have 40 investment projects in Vietnam worth 193 million USD.

However, he said, two-way trade remains modest compared with Italy’s annual trade value of around 459 billion USD.

With socio-political stability and a favourable investment environment, Vietnam hopes its will be an attractive destination for Italian and foreign investors, he said.

Italian Foreign Minister Giulio Terzi said Italy’s exports to ASEAN markets increased by a yearly average of 4.5 percent in the last decade, and now reach a total of 5.6 billion USD.

“ASEAN countries attract a quota of less than 2 percent of total Italian exports and foreign investments, so I am sure that much more can be done,” he said.

Meanwhile, ASEAN Secretary General Surin Pitsuwan affirmed that ASEAN wants to attract more investment from Italy.

He said ASEAN, with an average GDP growth of 6-7 percent in the past decade, is a potential market with more than 600 million people and a dynamic development region with many opportunities for investment cooperation.-VNA