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ASEAN embassies in Berne promote awareness of the ASEAN region in Switzerland

The ASEAN embassies in Berne, in cooperation with Swiss Foreign Policy Think Tank Foraus, successfully held a forum entitled, “ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) in 2015: What it means for Switzerland- Prospects and Challenges for Better Cooperation” at the University of Berne on 14 May 2013.

The event, which was attended by more than one hundred twenty people, was organized primarily to introduce the ASEAN region to the Swiss public and create awareness of the region’s potential, primarily as an investment and tourism destination among Swiss nationals. Specifically, the forum aimed to provide insight into the current developments in ASEAN, as the region gears toward the creation of the ASEAN Economic Community in 2015.

Key discussants in the forum included Prof. Jean-Pierre Lehmann, professor of International Political Economy at the International Institute for Management Development (IMD) in Lausanne and a specialist in Southeast Asia; Dr. Urs Lustenberger, President of the Swiss Asian Chamber of Commerce (SACC); and Mr. Leo Trembley, Regional Coordinator, Asia Pacific Division of the Federal Department of Foreign Affairs.

Professor Lehmann provided a concise background on the historical, economic and geo-demographic background of the region as well as the challenges this presents to the region as it prepares toward 2015. Dr. Lustenberger made a presentation on the business opportunities for Swiss companies in ASEAN with the emergence of the ASEAN Economic Community. He concluded that while the region’s diversity presents challenges for the individual member countries, such diversity offers vast opportunities for Swiss businesses to explore. Mr. Trembley discussed the parallelism and complementarity between Switzerland and ASEAN, as well as a number of cooperative projects the two sides have in the pipeline.  

The presentations were followed by question and answer portion, which provided an opportunity for the five ASEAN Ambassadors to share their thoughts and views on the subjects raised. The ASEAN ambassadors who participated in the forum were: Ambassador Djoko Susilo of Indonesia; Ambassador Dato’ Ho May Yong of Malaysia; Ambassador  Leslie J. Baja of the Philippines; Ambassador Chalermpol Thanchitt of Thailand; and Ambassador Nguyen The Piet of Vietnam.

Some of the questions asked include the rationale for member countries to join ASEAN; the current achievements of the region with regard to its preparation for 2015; their position on the TPP vis-à-vis the AEC; and what the AEC really means for individual countries in ASEAN.   More questions were fielded from the floor but due to lack of time, the attendees were given the opportunity to discuss their questions with the ambassadors during the apèro that followed suit. END

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