Riyadh Meeting Aims To Boost GCC-ASEAN Strategic Cooperation Before Friday’s Summit

By Ghadi Joudah

A meeting on relations between the Gulf Cooperation Council and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations was held on Wednesday at the Al-Faisaliah Hotel ahead of a summit involving the two blocs on Friday.

Organized by the Gulf Research Center, the meeting was attended by GCC and ASEAN representatives, members of the business community and journalists.

Among the topics discussed were political, security, and economic cooperation. 

Although the GCC and ASEAN established relations back in 1990, this will be the first summit between the two blocs.

Dr. Abdulaziz Al-Uwaisheg, GCC assistant secretary-general for political affairs and negotiations, said: “The timing of this participation is crucial, especially in terms of the events and circumstances the region is going through.” 

The main goal of this meeting is to boost strategic cooperation between leaders from the Gulf and Asia, he added.

“The trade exchange of goods (with ASEAN countries) exceeds $110 billion, representing a high portion of the volume of foreign trade between GCC countries and others,” he said.

Abdulaziz Sagr, chairman of the Gulf Research Center, told Arab News that a memorandum of understanding between the Federation of Gulf Chambers and ASEAN will enhance cooperation.

“In January of 2024, we will arrange another closed meeting between the Gulf and Asia so that there is a follow-up from the upcoming summit on Friday,” he said.

“There is a vast and very real potential that must be exploited. ASEAN occupies an important strategic location between the countries of the Arabian Gulf, the Indian Ocean, countries of Southeast China, and the China Sea.”

The Strait of Malacca, located between Indonesia and Malaysia, “is considered the second most important for oil trade after the Strait of Hormuz. This also gives great importance to the logistics for sea traffic and maritime security,” he said.

Rommel Romato, charge d’affaires of the Philippine Embassy in Riyadh, said the Kingdom and GCC community “have important regional partners such as the United States, China, and Central Asia.”

Romato added: “We can say that the GCC is an epicenter of growth and change. There are a lot of changes here not only in the Kingdom but in the neighboring countries. So, this presents a lot of opportunities for everyone — not only for this region but for the world.” 

He said that the Philippines is equally committed to making the proposed political and economic collaborations a reality.

“We want to promote cooperation in trade and investment, healthcare, tourism, and education,” Romato said.

He said he appreciated the fact that Saudi Arabia has provided employment to workers from Southeast Asia who need jobs and support for their families. 

“We are very grateful for that. There is a need to strengthen our security cooperation,” Romato added.