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First ASEAN-GULF Cooperation Council Workshop held in Singapore

The event aims to strengthen areas of cooperation between ASEAN nations and the Gulf states.

SINGAPORE: Enhancing economic relations and developing people-to-people links are key to strengthening ties between the Gulf states and Southeast Asia, said Singapore's Foreign Affairs and Law Minister K Shanmugam on Wednesday (June 11). He was speaking at the first ASEAN-GULF Cooperation Council (GCC) Workshop, which aims to bring together participants with different fields of expertise to discuss potential areas of cooperation.

With an increasing middle class in both regions, demand for goods and services will also rise, he said. "ASEAN's GDP is expected to grow at 4.7 per cent in 2014, with a comparable growth rate of 4.5 per cent for the GCC. This is above the expected global growth average of 3.7 per cent. Additionally, both GCC and ASEAN member states possess young populations, with one-third of ASEAN's and half the GCC's population under 29 years of age."

ASEAN-GCC trade also grew by 20 per cent from 2011 to reach US$134.9 billion (S$168.6 billion) in 2012 and this figure is expected to rise in the coming years.

But while countries focus on promoting integration within their respective regions, Mr Shanmugam stressed that it is also important to build a network of relationships beyond their neighbours, especially in light of the current complex geopolitical environment.

"We really have to start looking at both regions beyond our historical and traditional relationships, which while still useful, no longer fully serve our respective needs," he said. "We need to create new linkages, forge new networks."

Said Bahrain Foreign Minister  Shaikh Khalid: "I am confident that in fields as diverse as trade, energy, the environment, culture, finance, and tourism, there are tremendous opportunities to bring together both the public and private sector in our countries for projects that can make a real difference on the ground."

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