Honorable Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of Thailand Mr Sihasak Phuangketkeow
Honorable Deputy Minister of Enterprises and Made in Italy Mr Valentino Valentini
Representatives of governments and agencies from all over ASEAN and of the ASEAN secretariat,
Hon. Attilio Fontana, Governor of the Lombardy region,
Excellencies – distinguished guest – ladies and gentlemen
We have just heard a lot of very important data from the CEO of TEH Ambrosetti, I am going to give also a little human touch.
It is not an easy thing to convey the deep sense of happiness and fulfilment that I am experiencing being here today in Bangkok for the inauguration of the 7th edition of the HIGH LEVEL DIALOGUE ON ASEAN ITALY ECONOMIC RELATIONS.
Let me try and explain:
This time of the year ten years ago in 2013 I was leaving Bangkok upon accomplishing my term of duty as Ambassador of Italy to Thailand. I had very much enjoyed working in this country, in this Krug Thep, the city of angels. Everything had been in place to make the experience rich and pleasant: the kindness of the people, the availably and spirit of cooperation of the authorities, the country’s beauty rich culture and extraordinary food.
But what counted most I had had the opportunity to experiment in person those things that statistics will never tell. Behind the excellent and sustained over the years growth rate, behind the impressive figures of the foreign trade and improving standard of living stood a lasting and deeper reality: the spirit of the people, their vitality, their resolve to improve and progress, the intensity of life one could sense in the air. This was true of Thailand as well as of the other member countries of Asean I had the opportunity to observe while I was posted here. That was the secret recipe of the Asean economic miracle and its perspectives of continued strength, the more so since these countries were bound together by their Association.
I thus left with a thought firmly planted in my mind that I made into my mission: something needed to be done so that Italy and in particular its economic players achieve a better perception of what extraordinary opportunities are offered by this part of the world. Although it must be said that our Businesses do pretty well in the Asean countries, that our products enjoy a strong reputation and hold a reasonable space in the Asean markets, I was convinced that it was well short of tapping the full potential.
Not long after I met with some very important Italian personalities that shared this Idea with the same enthusiasm and very quickly the Italy Asean Association saw the light, thanks also to the support of the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and of the main public entities that promote Italian interests abroad.
Much has happened since. In 2015 ASEAN has become a Community also in the economic field, with practically unhindered circulation of goods and capitals. Then came the RCEP agreement opening up an enormous common market in this part of the world. Those achievements consolidated the ASEAN role and made its member countries an even more appealing partner, one that could not be overlooked. In fact the Italian government did not fail to realise that and sought the status of ASEAN’s Development Partner, which was achieved in 2020.
The Association’s work to promote ASEAN countries in Italy has continued all along since 2015 with many awareness activities with the support of its members, some of the major Italian Corporations and in cooperation with the Italian official bodies and the Embassies of the ASEAN members countries in Rome. We soon realised that it was of the utmost importance to bring the Italian CEOs to ASEAN to meet their counterparts, to see with their own eyes the dynamism of the people, governments and entrepreneurs in these countries. That’s how the cooperation with TEH Ambrosetti was initiated. Quite appropriately the first edition of the HLD was held in 2017 in Jakarta, the seat of the ASEAN Secretariat, on the 50th anniversary of the foundation of ASEAN.
The Dialogue has now reached its 7th edition and -allow me to say at long last!- lands in Bangkok, the very place where ASEAN was born.
Much has happened since the days I left this capital: while ASEAN was firmly advancing on its path, the world order has been gravely challenged: a fearsome pandemic made millions of victims and almost hibernated every activity, war has broken in eastern Europe, globalisation is being menaced by fragmentation, inflation is affecting most of the countries in the world.
What has not changed is the ASEAN countries : their openness to the world, their willingness to progress, the attitude of people – entrepreneurs-governments have all remained unhindered if not reinvigorated. Growth estimates are peaking again after the pandemic.
To the challenges of these times of trouble ASEAN responds with a firm belief in international cooperation and presents itself as a champion of multilateralism and multipolarism. ASEAN looks at the rest of the world with trust with the spirit of working together for the common interest. The Italy ASEAN Association fully agrees: we welcome the attitude of countries that reject the idea of confrontation as unavoidable and work in harmony in the pursuit of the mutual rewards of cooperation.
In these very days Thailand is in the limelight: the omens for a renewed thrust in the economy look favourable; negotiations with the EU have resumed recently, with the goal of deepening bilateral trade and investments relations (hopefully with a view to the conclusion of a FTA); the government is launching important initiatives that are infusing new energy into the economy.
All this make up for an ideal framework and bestow a special importance to today’s work’s. This meeting could not have happened at a better time: I am told the our Dialogue is the first important international Economic Forum taking place since the new government of Thailand came into power: this is extremely auspicious and is for the Association reason of great satisfaction.
Today you have the chance to explore the opportunities that lay in our respective economies. Today you can saw the seeds to increase trade and cooperation between our countries.
I thank you for the attention and wish you the best of success.