High Level Dialogue on ASEAN-Italy economic relations


South-East Asia: a unique opportunity for Italian companies.

The Italy-ASEAN Association and The European House Ambrosetti, under the patronage of the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Confindustria, hosted on July 2nd, the 2020 High Level Dialogue on Italy-ASEAN economic relations: a digital round-table intended to replace the physical event that was originally scheduled in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Speakers included the President of the Italy-ASEAN Association, Enrico Letta, the Undersecretary of State at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Italian Cooperation, Manlio Di Stefano, the Secretary General of ASEAN, Dato Lim Jock Hoi, the Italian Ambassador in Malaysia, Cristiano Maggipinto, and the Vice President for Internationalization of Confindustria, Barbara Beltrame. Guests also included 370 company representatives, including managers and entrepreneurs, and over 200 participants, who contributed to generate a thought-provoking and engaging webinar.

The last five years have been crucial in the strengthening of the relationship between Italy and South-East Asian countries. Since the meeting between the President of the Italian Republic Sergio Mattarella and the Secretary General of ASEAN in 2015, on the occasion of the "First Bilateral Dialogue between Indonesia and Italy", awareness has grown around the importance of the relations between Italy and South-East Asia. The improvements in the diplomatic and commercial relations in recent years have been evident, and the post-Covid era will present even further integration opportunities. 

While the world still grasps with the far-flung effects of Covid-19, the ASEAN region managed to counter an effective response to the crisis. The region has been able to respond and mitigate the impact of the Covid-19 crisis with strength and resilience, thanks primarily to enhanced forms of regional cooperation, among which several online summits among country leaders and meetings with representatives from the US, EU, China, Japan and others. According to ASEAN Secretary General Lim Jock Hoi, even greater regional economic integration will be needed for the recovery phase. The focus will be on the digital economy: according to a report published by Facebook and Bain & Company, by 2025 consumers in the area will spend about three times more on digital platforms than in 2018. 

As emerged from the guests’ remarks, ASEAN member countries see Italy as a key partner in the global scenario, thanks also to the many areas and sectors of common interest, including the electronics, digital, textile, and agri-food sectors. In the post-Covid-19 recovery phase, Italy and ASEAN will have the chance to further strengthen bilateral ties. Both ASEAN Secretary General and Undersecretary Di Stefano stressed the need to work together to promote economic integration, investments, the Industrial Revolution 4.0 and the fight against climate change.  

The event confirmed the growing and mutual interest of the Italian country system towards the ASEAN area. Several participants stressed the importance of greater collaboration between Europe and South-East Asia in an international context of growing rivalry between China and the United States. Cooperation between ASEAN Countries, Italy and Europe will be crucial to strengthen the principles of multilateralism and free trade. 

Article edited by editorial Staff

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