In 2006, the European Commission approved the Global Europe Communication, first step in a new trade policy envisaging ambitious and far-reaching bilateral free trade agreements (FTAs) with priority partners having significant market potential.
Asia is an emerging market that will soon become the largest economic region in the world. Its bilateral trade with the European Union is now larger than its trade with the US, and it continues to grow.
A “new generation” free trade agreement has already been concluded with South Korea, and provisionally entered into force in July 2011.
Agreements with India, Singapore and Malaysia could be signed before the end of 2012, while negotiations and talks with several other Asian states continue.
The goal of strengthening cooperation and increasing trade with these strategic partners will be achieved despite some disagreement on sensitive issues (such as automotive and textile sectors) and opposition from civil society and specific sectors.
However, the European Union is not the only international actor looking to expand its trade relationship with Asia.