CARI chairman Tan Sri Dr Munir Majid noted such points to be particularly pertinent as countries struggle to return to pre-COVID-19 growth numbers while having to respond to increasing public scepticism over the benefits of globalisation.
He said the pandemic had exacerbated geo-economic tensions between great powers, with regional blocs like the EU and ASEAN being increasingly pressured to choose sides at the expense of their own internal cohesion.
“COVID-19 should ultimately serve as a wake-up call for ASEAN that greater regional integration is not some faraway luxury to consider, but increasingly a strategic necessity for a region that wants to preserve its economic vitality and geostrategic independence.
“Notwithstanding, our different internal dynamics and histories, the trade and institutional experiences of the EU can impart lessons which ASEAN must pay attention to,” he said during a CARI Briefings webinar titled ‘How Can ASEAN Bounce Back: An EU Perspective’, today.
In a statement, CARI said the session, which was moderated by Munir, also featured Paolo R. Vergano, its senior fellow, and a partner at FratiniVergano – European Lawyers, and key expert for trade facilitation in the ARISE Plus project of the ASEAN Regional Integration Support by the EU.
Vergano said contrary to recent narratives of the death of globalisation, the response to COVID-19 by many countries was a combination of both restricting certain trade while maintaining or facilitating others.
He said while public lockdowns and travel restrictions had inevitably caused downward pressures on international trade, maintaining free and open trade was vital for both ASEAN and EU economies to remain afloat and ensure continued access to essential goods.
“For both blocs, preserving supply chain connectivity (particularly internally) has been identified by both ASEAN and the EU as key goals in their larger response to COVID-19,” he said.