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Relaunch of EU-ASEAN Trade Talks

14 March 2017

EU Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmström and her counterparts from ASEAN agreed last week to take new steps towards resuming free trade talks between the two regions. Speaking after the annual EU-ASEAN ministerial consultations held in Manila, Malmström said: ‘2017 marks the 40th anniversary of fruitful cooperation between the EU and ASEAN. There is still much to be done to unlock the full potential of the relationship but the quickly changing international environment now makes us turn our eyes even more towards Asia. I am glad to see that both sides are now ready to seize the momentum and start preparations towards re-launching these negotiations. This is a significant and timely initiative, and it shows that the EU and ASEAN are committed to take the lead together on regional and global trade.”

Senior officials will now start working out the parameters of the negotiations for a future ASEAN-EU region-to-region agreement. The participants also agreed to organize expert meetings in new areas of cooperation such as public procurement, e-commerce, and simplifying trade for small and medium-sized enterprises. Participants agreed to have their officials explore the idea of a multilateral court for investment that can serve as a single global judicial instance for resolving investment-related disputes.

On the sidelines, Commissioner Malmström also met bilaterally with trade and economic Ministers from several ASEAN countries, including Cambodia, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines and Vietnam.

Before Manila, the Commissioner gave a speech in Singapore where she highlighted the importance of EU-ASEAN relations. The EU was the biggest investor in the region and ASEAN's third largest trading partner. Since 2009, ASEAN's exports to the EU had doubled. Malmström defended the benefits of free trade and globalisation but added that ‘not everyone in the world sees openness as a positive thing.’ She stated that ‘the path of protectionism won't work. It won't restore jobs. It won't make anyone's country great again. It will simply make everyone worse off.’

She spoke positively about the bilateral trade agenda highlighting the deals with South Korea, Singapore and Vietnam. The EU was now negotiating with both Indonesia and the Philippines and there was a possibility of resuming negotiations with Malaysia. The EU also strongly supported the efforts to integrate the ASEAN Economic Community.