On December 11, ASEAN and Norway held their first Joint Sectoral Cooperation Committee meeting (AN-JSCC) in the Indonesian capital of Jakarta.
The meeting is the latest step in an ongoing process by both sides to strengthen their relationship. In August, Norway was conferred the status of an ASEAN Sectoral Dialogue Partner after it applied to establish a formal partnership with the regional grouping. Within ASEAN, per Article 44 of the ASEAN Charter, Sectoral Dialogue Partner status is one of several formal statuses that the organization can confer on an external party, with the others being Development Partner, Special Observer, Guest, or Dialogue Partner (which is considered the highest level).
The AN-JSCC is a cooperation mechanism to consider and approve programs and projects under the new ASEAN-Norway partnership. The first AN-JSCC on December 11 was co-chaired by Norway’s ambassador to ASEAN Stig Traavik and ASEAN’s deputy secretary-general for the ASEAN Political-Security community, Hirubalan V.P. According to the ASEAN Secretariat, the inaugural AN-JSCC saw the adoption of its terms of reference, a discussion on modalities and processes to move the partnership forward, and priority cooperation areas. Discussions built on the work done in the Joint Statement on ASEAN-Norway Partnership adopted in August 2014 in Naypyidaw, Myanmar.
Hirubalan V.P. also had a bilateral meeting with Norwegian Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Morten Hoeglund later that day. According to the Norwegian embassy in Indonesia, Hoeglund, who had also attended the Bali Democracy Forum prior to the meeting, stressed that being an ASEAN partner is very important for Norway as it allows the country “access to important political arenas” and enhances opportunities for Norwegian companies in Southeast Asian markets. In 2014, ASEAN countries were collectively Norway’s fourth largest trading partner and home to the highest concentration of Norwegian foreign companies.
“ASEAN and Norway would forge substantial cooperation for maximum benefits to both sides,” Hoeglund said.