The Hanoitimes - On March 10, the joint press conference of the 15th ASEAN Economic Ministers-EU Trade Commissioner Consultations announced that the European Union (EU) and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) will strive to resume negotiations on a free trade agreement (FTA) between the two blocs, as European countries look to tap the region`s strong growth.
EU Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom told reporters in Manila, the Philippines, that EU and ASEAN senior officials decided to establish a framework for the resumption of FTA talks. However, they have yet to set up a detailed schedule for negotiations. The EU-ASEAN connectivity will help remove trade barriers, she said, adding that a bilateral FTA is a long-term target that the EU has been discussing for many years and the EU is taking steps towards this.
A trade deal with ASEAN will link the EU with the world’s seventh-largest market, which boasts strong consumption and middle-class expansion, especially in Vietnam and the Philippines. The ASEAN region has a combined population of 622 million and an economy of 2.6 trillion USD which is driven by consumption, export, and manufacturing.
The EU and ASEAN launched negotiations on a region-to-region FTA in 2007 but suspended the process in 2009 as the EU wanted to have bilateral talks with each of the ASEAN members instead of negotiating with the whole bloc.
The two sides agreed to strive towards elevating the bilateral relations to strategic partnership and adopted the Bangkok statement on promoting ASEAN-EU global partnership for common strategic goals, which set out orientations, frameworks and solutions to enhance bilateral cooperation in significant fields.
Regarding policies and security, they agreed to strengthen collaboration to maintain peace and security in the region and at sea, advocate the observance of international law, and deal with non-traditional security challenges, especially terrorism, cross-border crime, cyber security, maritime security, climate change and natural disasters management.
On the economic front, the two sides agreed to kick-start negotiations on an ASEAN-EU free trade area, enhance connectivity via air and sea routes, and develop small-and medium-sized enterprises. Pertaining to culture and society, ASEAN and EU will increase people-to-people exchanges and cooperation on tourism, education-training, and science-technology.
The EU pledged to work closer with ASEAN in sustainable development and continue supporting ASEAN to build the community. The uion also expressed its wish to participate in some regional mechanisms which ASEAN takes a leading role.
Translated by Anh Kiet