By Roy Mabasa
The Philippines has joined the formal inauguration of the Spain-ASEAN Business Association (ASEMPEA) that will serve as “specialized and privileged interlocutor” in business relations between Madrid and the fastest-growing region in the world.
Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs Fernando Valenzuela, who represented the Spanish government in the event, congratulated ASEMPEA even as he urged the concerned governments of the regional block to work toward an EU-ASEAN free-trade agreement.
Philippine Ambassador to Spain Philippe J. Lhuillier attended the recent launch of ASEMPEA, together with his counterparts from the embassies of Indonesia, Malaysia, Vietnam and Thailand.
ASEMPEA President Iñigo de Palacio, who delivered the opening remarks, acknowledged ASEAN’s economic importance and potential being the third largest economy in Asia after China and Japan, with a combined consumer market of 650-million people.
He promised the ASEAN member-countries’ of Spain’s openness to trade, especially in the current period of growing protectionism around the world, with ASEAN providing a single window for entry into 10 economies.
De Palacio, who is also the Global Director for Institutional Relations of IT and defense systems giant Indra Sistemas, expressed Indra’s desire to deepen its engagement with countries in the ASEAN region.
Spanish lawyer Antonio Viñal, head of the ASEAMPEA secretariat informed the ASEAN envoys that his law firm, AVCO, had recently published online its “Guide to Doing Business in ASEAN 2018,” adding that the association will maintain a dedicated working group for each ASEAN member with a permanent mission in Madrid.
As chair of the ASEAN committee in Madrid, Vietnamese Ambassador Ngo Tien Dung welcomed the initiative of the Spanish. He noted that around 9,000 EU companies are now operating in ASEAN, mostly in the service sector, and that 2017 saw approximately €11.5 billion in trade between Spain and ASEAN.
Lhuillier said ASEMPEA will formally begin its activities in January 2019, with the association’s official website at [https://www.asempea.com/] serving as the hub for all information related to Spain-ASEAN trade.