This opening address, delivered by the Coordinating Minister for Economic Affairs Airlangga Hartarto on behalf of the President of the Republic of Indonesia, Bapak Joko Widodo, looked at the achievements and potential of ASEAN in the present global context.
In recent times, ASEAN has demonstrated remarkable resilience and positive growth in the face of challenging external conditions. In 2023, the region achieved an impressive economic growth rate of 4.2%, with expectations of reaching 4.5% in 2024 — thanks in no small part to levels of political stability that are becoming increasingly rare in other parts of the world.
Key economic indicators for ASEAN reveal promising prospects, with total trade value reaching approximately US$3.8 trillion in 2022, representing a 15% increase from 2021. Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) has also hit an all-time high of US$224.2 billion, marking a 5.5% increase from 2021. Indonesia has also experienced substantial growth, with seven consecutive quarters of over 5% GDP growth and a low inflation rate of 2.28% in September 2023.
During Indonesia’s Chairmanship of ASEAN in 2023, Southeast Asia was declared the epicentre of global economic growth, with the potential to achieve a combined GDP of US$20 trillion. To realise this vision, ASEAN committed to embracing new growth drivers like digital transformation and green ecosystems; and pursuing forward-looking objectives through inclusive and collaborative efforts. The implementation of the ASEAN Outlook across the Indo-Pacific region is a crucial part of this journey.
Also during this time, ASEAN set concrete deliverables at the ASEAN Pacific Forum in September 2023, comprising 93 projects with a total investment value of approximately US$38.2 billion. Connectivity plays a pivotal role in the integration of ASEAN, with the launch of the Master Plan of ASEAN Connectivity 2025 and the strengthening of synergy within ASEAN sub-regions.
Infrastructure development is—and has historically been—a backbone of regional trade and business; and the launch of ASEAN DEFA, a collective effort for unlocking ASEAN's digital economic potential, is set to further expand opportunities. According to the Network Readiness Index, ASEAN currently scores around 70, exceeding the global digital average of 62, indicating a substantial opportunity for digital transformation.
The addition of value through manufacturing has been a central policy focus in Indonesia's industrialisation efforts, with the launch of Industry 4.0 in 2016. Local currency transactions have been established with five ASEAN countries to facilitate trade for SMEs, helping to reduce regional reliance on the US dollar and protecting them from foreign exchange fluctuations due to geopolitical circumstances.
Expanding this initiative with the involvement of financial institutions such as UOB is essential for stabilising the ASEAN economy; and the Indonesian government welcomes and is eager to support UOB in its ambitious goal of creating one million jobs.
The presence of CEOs and bankers from ASEAN, China, Taiwan, Hong Kong, and other nations, as well as the assurance of profit transfer without restrictions, makes Indonesia a secure and profitable investment destination within ASEAN — a region that is on the threshold of great potential and opportunity. Further collaboration—and leveraging of regional resources and expertise—will help to ensure a prosperous future for the region.
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