Source: eKapija | Wednesday, 10.08.2016.| 11:20
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ASEAN flag raised in Belgrade – Serbia not using good bilateral relations sufficiently

In conjunction with the 49th Anniversary of the formation of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and to commemorate the first year of the establishment of the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC), the ASEAN Day 2016 flag raising ceremony was held on August 8, 2016, at 10:00 a.m. at the Embassy of the Republic of Indonesia in Belgrade.

The Ceremony was co-hosted by the ASEAN Embassies based in Belgrade, Republic of Serbia, namely the Republic of Indonesia, the Republic of the Union of Myanmar and Malaysia.

ASEAN was established on August 8, 1967, in Bangkok, Thailand, with the signing of the ASEAN Declaration (Bangkok Declaration) by the ASEAN founding members, namely Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore and Thailand. Brunei Darussalam joined ASEAN on January 7, 1984, followed by Lao PDR and Myanmar on July 23, 1997, and Cambodia on April 30, 1999, making up what is today the ten Member States of ASEAN.

Since its establishment, ASEAN has been successful in facilitating the economic prosperity, political stability and security as well as socio-cultural cohesion of the countries in the South East Asian region.

The importance of ASEAN to the world economy is proven by the fact that they cover a market of over 622 million people. This potential market of ASEAN is larger than those of the European Union or North America, said the Ambassador of Indonesia in Belgrade, Harry Richard James Kandou.

– By GDP, the group was seventh largest economy in the world in 2015 and it could be fourth largest by 2050. It is also one of the most open economic regions in the world, with total merchandise exports of over USD 1.2 trillion - nearly 54% of total ASEAN GDP and 7% of global exports, making it the fourth-largest exporting region in the world – added the Indonesian ambassador at the Belgrade ceremony.

The flag raising ceremony was attended by Heads of Missions and representatives from the Asia pacific embassies based in Belgrade and, on behalf of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Serbia, Goran Aleksic, assistant in charge of bilateral relations. Considering the fact that the Serbian delegation consisted of only one member, we wondered how well used the possibilities of cooperation between Serbia and the member states of ASEAN were.

Professor at the Faculty of Political Sciences and the director of the Asian Studies Institute, Dragana Mitrovic, reminds that Serbia's position as Yugoslavia's successor enables it to benefit from decades of bilateral cooperation with many of the ten member states of ASEAN, some of which are showing great interest in establishing a far more thorough economic cooperation in the areas of trade, tourism, direct investments in our economy, but also education, technological exchange etc.

– Since some of these countries are at the same time the most dynamic world economies and belong to the so-called growing or blooming economies, like Indonesia, Thailand, Vietnam, the economic cooperation with them could have a positive effect on the dynamic of the growth of our economy and the diversification of the market and sources of foreign investments – says prof. Dragana Mitrovic for eKapija and adds that, since the removal of sanctions, Myanmar too has become a hotspot of true competition between potential investors from the most developed economies.

Our interviewee notes that Indonesia, a powerful and dynamic regional economy, has been showing great interest, which we haven't used nearly enough.

Mitrovic believes that this is caused partly by our traditional weaknesses – the separation of science and the competent state institutions and the economy, which results in the lack of proper letters of recommendation, low interest of our business entities for markets outside Europe, the slowness of the existing institutions in realizing the initiatives from these countries, especially when it comes to interdepartmental cooperation, and the generally unfavorable climate in the Serbian economy and its weak capacities for competitive ventures in the world market.

J. Djelic
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