Asean-EU ties remain ‘robust’, says summit official


AN official of the Asean National Organizing Council downplayed President Rodrigo Duterte’s tirades against the European Union (EU) and said that its relationship with the Southeast Asian countries remained “robust.”

“The Asean-EU relationship is robust. In fact, these blocs are celebrating their 40th year of being dialogue partners coinciding with the Asean, that’s why President Duterte invited them to come over [in Manila],” Director General Marciano Paynor, Jr. told a press conference in Malacanang on Tuesday.

Paynor said that it was important to distinguish the President’s statements as chairman of the Asean and as head of state.

Duterte serves as the chairman of the Asean in his capacity as the Philippine President.

“We have to distinguish his statements as Chair [of Asean]and head of government.  When he sits as Asean Chair, he wears a different hat. If the issue is not brought out by other Asean members, then it will remain a bilateral issue. And that bilateral issue will just be in the background,” Paynor said.

Paynor said the President’s recent criticisms against the EU, in which he warned the 28-member bloc against imposing its will on the Philippines by tying aid packages with conditionalities, hardly dampened the relationship between the Asean and the EU.

In fact, Paynor said that all was well between Asean and the EU, which would celebrate 40 years of their relationship coinciding with the Asean Leaders Summit in Manila in November.

This prompted the Philippines to invite leaders of the EU that included President of the European Commission Jean-Claude Juncker.

Also invited were other leaders of the EU, the United Nations and Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau who were expeted to hold bilateral talks with the President on the sidelines of the summit from November 10 to 15.

The Philippines is currently one of the beneficiaries of GSP+ (Generalized Scheme of Preference) scheme, which allows it and other developing countries to pay less or no duties on their exports to the EU, giving the Philippines crucial access to EU markets.

Benefitting from GSP+, however, requires developing countries to comply with certain international UN and International Labor Organization conventions such as:

* Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide;

* International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights;
* Convention Against Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment;

* United Nations Convention against Illicit Traffic in Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances;

* United Nations Convention against Corruption.  LLANESCA T. PANTI



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