On 25th October 2018, Universitas Pelita Harapan Center for International Trade and Investment (UPH CITI) and Faculty of Law of Universitas Pelita Harapan hosted a seminar on ASEAN-MERCOSUR: Towards Deeper Economic Cooperation. This seminar is a joint event with Universidad Argentina de la Empresa, MERCOSUR ASEAN Chamber of Commerce, and Universidad Católica del Uruguay. The keynote speech was delivered by H.E. Ricardo Luis Bocalandro and the speakers list consists of H.E. Niniek Kun Naryatie, Rodolfo Caffaro Kramer, Ambassador Jonny Sinaga, Benny Y.P. Siahaan, Ambassador Mulya WIrana, chaired by Jessica Los Banos.
Dr. Michelle Limenta began the seminar by giving an introduction of the guests and the event to the audience. Dr. Susi Susantijo, Executive Director of UPH Graduate School, delivered her appreciation to the distinguished speakers and welcome all the audience. The seminar continued with the keynote speech delivered by H.E. Ricardo Luis Bocalandro. He introduced MERCOSUR as a customs union to the audience in a detailed fashion, starting from the history, Members, structure, to the integration process of MERCOSUR.
The Seminar continued with the discussion from the Chair. Three key cooperation issues identified by the Chair of the Panel are (1) ASEAN-MERCOSUR complementarity, (2) modalities of deepening cooperation, and (3) role of trade support institutions. Ambassador of Argentina to Indonesia, H.E. Niniek Kun Naryatie emphasized the goals of ASEAN-MERCOSUR which seek the importance of exploring ways to further strengthen inter-regional ties especially in the trade, investment and economic fields. She also addressed the challenges of ASEAN-MERCOSUR which are (1) trade policy within each regional grouping, (2) people to people connectivity, and (3) lack of mechanism to ease business contact. The statistics indicate that cooperation between the two regions offer an enormous potential to be discovered. The Director for ASEAN External Cooperation, Mr. Benny Y.P. Siahaan stated that there are opportunities offered by the cooperation between ASEAN-MERCOSUR, among others, the promotion of multilateralism and dialogue with the external partners. The cooperation can be done in several areas as small, medium and micro enterprises, trade and investment, renewable energy, agriculture, and infrastructure.
Ambassador Mulya Wirana complements the view of H.E Niniek Kun Naryati by stating in this modern technology era, it is easier to facilitate people to people connectivity. According to Ambassador Mulya Wirana, to reach the goal of ASEAN-MERCOSUR integration, both regions must identify the focus of FTA (trade in goods, investment, supply chain, etc), and also to analyze the scope of FTA between the regions.
There was a question from a participant on why MERCOSUR is interested in the ASEAN Region, Rodolfo answered “ASEAN and MERCOSUR are not competing against each other, but they are complimentary.” That is the reason why now is the right time to talk and grasp the biggest opportunity to deepens the economic integration between the two regions.
In conclusion, in order for ASEAN MERCOSUR to achieve its objective to enhance economic relations between ASEAN and MERCOSUR Member States, people-to-people interactions need to be carried out in order to explore and further strengthen inter-regional ties. Moreover, comprehensive methods need to be identified and attached the importance of Free Trade Agreement.
This seminar may be the first step for ASEAN MERCOSUR to move forward to better cooperation in the future. There were more than 75 participants who attended the seminar coming from diverse backgrounds, among others, embassies, businesses, students, researchers and academics.