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EU to grant 20.7 mln USD to support ASEAN single market

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JAKARTA, March 1 (Xinhua) -- The European Union (EU) is to provide a 15 million Euro (about 20.7 million U.S. dollars) grant to ASEAN to support its members to form a single market by 2015, local media reported here on Tuesday.

The newly established cooperation called ASEAN-EU Economic Integration Support Program (AEISP) was announced here on Tuesday during a seminar themed "ASEAN and the EU : Twenty Years from Now, Two Integrated Markets".

The seminar actually marked the conclusion of the ASEAN-EU Program for Regional Integration Support (APRIS) Phase II which had been operating in Indonesia since 2006.

"Over the last eight years, the APRIS support from the EU has been successful and helpful to ASEAN. The new phase of support opens a new and exciting chapter for economic cooperation with the EU. I look forward to working in closer partnership with the EU in advancing economic integration," ASEAN Secretary General Surin Pitsuwan said in his opening speech at the seminar.

Surin said regional economic integration would bring multi-fold gains for the citizens of ASEAN, namely the realization of cheaper goods, better job prospects, better living standards and improve businesses from lower taxes and create a more competitive environment.

Surin said the EU's experiences in integrating their economies were good pointers for ASEAN and expected to help the latter realize the goal of integration faster.

Meanwhile, EU's Representative to ASEAN Ambassador Julian Wilson said his region had enjoyed the benefit of cooperation with ASEAN during the past years. "Economic and people to people contact between the EU and ASEAN have been increasing during the past years and I think this two cooperation will be our roots of relation in future years," he was quoted as saying by the Antara news service.

In his speech, Wilson expressed hope that ASEAN would soon realize a full market integration adding that "EU is honored that ASEAN views the APRIS cooperation as a success and has invited the EU to continue helping in realizing its single market, a cornerstone of the ASEAN vision,"

APRIS phase II have been operating in Indonesia for the last eight years with EU grant support of 10 million euro. During its operation, the program had focused its support to ASEAN on developing key agreements and implementation mechanisms leading to trade facilitation and removal of non-tariff barriers between the ASEAN members.

The program was said to have led to tangible successes including the simplification of customs procedures across borders, harmonization of administrative documents, standardization of technical requirements and the transition from governmental pre- approval system to a post-market surveillance system for cosmetic products.

The APRIS program also strengthened ASEAN Secretariat's institutional capacity in particular by helping ASEAN with the Enhanced Dispute Settlement Mechanism. Through financing policy dialogues and study visits to Europe, the program also contributed to the creation of ASEAN-EU networks of policy-makers and practitioners.

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