Written by Krisztina Binder,
After negotiations between the EU and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) for a regional free trade agreement (FTA) were suspended in 2009, the EU decided to pursue bilateral trade agreements with the individual ASEAN member states. To date, six of them have started talks on a bilateral FTA with the EU. Negotiations have already been concluded with two of these countries, Singapore and Vietnam, although those FTAs still await ratification.
The EU’s final objective is to have a region-to-region agreement with ASEAN, based on the bilateral FTAs concluded with the ASEAN member states. Once the conditions required for this to happen are in place, the EU and its ASEAN partners will need to determine how to bring all these bilateral agreements under one regional FTA, with a view to including ASEAN member states with which the EU does not have bilateral agreements.
It is in the EU’s strategic interest to strengthen economic cooperation with ASEAN, and to maintain its competitive position in the Asia-Pacific region, given its economic importance, combined with the expanding intraregional trade and investment relations and the growing number of regional integration initiatives.
Back in 2006, in its communication entitled ‘Global Europe: Competing in the world’, the European Commission identified ASEAN as a potential FTA partner that should be given priority based on key economic criteria. The Commission’s new 2015 trade strategy, entitled ‘Trade for all – Towards a more responsible trade and investment policy’, reaffirmed this objective.
Read the complete briefing on ‘Driving trade in the ASEAN region Progress of FTA negotiations‘.