Asean, EU to revive trade pact plans
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.