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ASEAN | Manila, 10 March 2017

EU and ASEAN gear up for possible re-launch of trade talks

Trade leaders from the EU and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) today agreed to take new steps towards resuming free trade talks between the two regions. The decision was taken at the annual EU-ASEAN ministerial consultations held in the Filipino capital of Manila, in which EU Commissioner for Trade Cecilia Malmström participated.

Commissioner 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 EU-ASEAN relationship, and 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. The EU remains strongly committed to advancing a positive global trade agenda in which all sides are winners."

The participants of today's ministerial meeting will now task their senior officials to work out the parameters of the negotiations for a future ASEAN-EU region-to-region agreement. The participants also agreed to organise expert meetings in new areas of cooperation such as public procurement, e-commerce, and simplifying trade for small and medium-sized enterprises.

Leading up to next year's ministerial, the EU and ASEAN countries will also continue to advance bilateral free trade talks and discussing other topics. 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. This initiative was launched jointly by the EU and Canada some months ago.

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

Background

Negotiations on an EU-ASEAN trade agreement originally started back in 2007. The differences in level of economic development and openness between the members of the South-East Asian grouping made Europe pursue the talks in separate settings with individual members of ASEAN as of 2009. So far, the EU has concluded, but not yet ratified, bilateral trade agreements with Singapore and Vietnam. Furthermore, the EU is pursuing negotiations with Indonesia, the Philippines and also, as regards investment protection, with Myanmar.

The EU is the most important investor in ASEAN and its second trading partner. With bilateral trade in goods worth more than 200 billion euros per year, ASEAN is the EU’s third trading partner.

More information

Joint EU-ASEAN statement from today's Trade and Economic Ministers' meeting