Asean, EU to re­vive trade pact plans

New Straits Times - - Business World -

The Euro­pean Union (EU) and Asean blocs said yes­ter­day they would try to re­vive plans for a Free Trade Agree­ment (FTA) as Euro­pean coun­tries looked to tap the re­gion’s strong growth.

The EU and Asean launched talks to­wards a pact in 2007 but aban­doned the process two years later, with the EU opt­ing in­stead to con­duct bi­lat­eral ne­go­ti­a­tions with in­di­vid­ual states.

The talks have had mixed suc­cess, with deals so far agreed only with Sin­ga­pore and most re­cently, Viet­nam, but yet to be im­ple­mented.

EU trade com­mis­sioner Ce­cilia Malm­strom said it was de­cided among the EU and se­nior Asean of­fi­cials yes­ter­day to es­tab­lish a frame­work for talks to restart, but there was no tar­geted time­frame.

“It is im­por­tant to con­nect two grow­ing mar­kets and take away as many ob­sta­cles to trade,” she said.

“Hav­ing a re­gion-tore­gion agree­ment be­tween EU and Asean is a longterm goal we’ve been dis­cussing for many years.”

A trade deal with Asean would con­nect the EU to the world’s sev­enth-largest mar­ket, and one with strong con­sumer and mid­dle-class ex­pan­sion, par­tic­u­larly in Viet­nam and the Philip­pines, which are among the world’s best-per­form­ing economies.

The Asean re­gion’s US$2.6 tril­lion (RM11.5 tril­lion) econ­omy is driven largely by con­sump­tion, ex­ports and man­u­fac­tur­ing, with Europe a key im­porter of goods.

The ini­tial EU-Asean ne­go­ti­a­tions were halted in large part due to the com­plex­i­ties of set­ting com­mon stan­dards among 10 South­east Asian coun­tries.

Ce­cilia Malm­strom

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