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ASEAN Brussels, 25 February 2010

EU Trade Commissioner Karel De Gucht travels to Asia

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EU Trade Commissioner Karel De Gucht will make a key visit to Asia on 1 st-5 th March 2010. The visit to Vietnam, Singapore and India underlines the importance the European Commission places on pursuing new exporting opportunities in the dynamic emerging Asian markets. In Vietnam, Commissioner De Gucht will hold talks on how to further strengthen EU-Vietnam trade relations; in Singapore he will launch negotiations on a Free Trade Agreement (FTA); and in India the Commissioner is aiming to inject new momentum into the ongoing FTA negotiations.

"Trade can create substantial new opportunities for growth and employment, and is vital to economic recovery", said Commissioner De Gucht. "Asia represents enormous growth potential for our exporters and I want to tap into new exporting and investment opportunities in this region. Many of the emerging Asian markets have high entry barriers, and ambitious free trade negotiations are the best way to tackle these."

The Trade Commissioner will meet high-level political representatives and officials in all three countries. This stresses his commitment to increasing trade with the region as one of his priorities.

"I hope that launching negotiations on a comprehensive free trade agreement with Singapore, the first country of the ASEAN group, will encourage others in that region to do likewise. In Vietnam, I will hold talks on how we can raise our trade relationship with this dynamic economy to a new level. In India, I will do my utmost to ensure good progress in our bilateral trade negotiations. The economic gains for India and the EU could be substantial", added Commissioner De Gucht.


Background

Vietnam (Monday 1 st – Tuesday 2 nd March 2010)

Our annual bilateral trade in goods amounted to almost € 12 billion in 2008, and trade has increased 12% annually during 2004-2008. Within the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), Vietnam is the EU's fifth largest trading partner. The country has seen rapid economic and social transformation over the past decade. It is a good example of an economy successfully opening up to trade and investment and lifting millions of people out of poverty.

Vietnam is today one of the fastest growing and dynamic economies in ASEAN. GDP growth averaged almost 8% during 2003-2008. Even through the global economic downturn in 2009, Vietnam recorded a respectable growth rate of almost 5%.


Singapore (Tuesday 2 nd – Wednesday 3 rd March 2010)

Singapore is one of the 10 members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations. The ASEAN countries together are the EU's third largest trading partner outside Europe, with annual bilateral trade in goods and services of some € 175 billion. Almost a third of this trade takes place between the EU and Singapore (€ 55 billion) which makes Singapore by far the EU's most important trading partner in South East Asia. The EU and Singapore also have strong investment ties; the bilateral stock of investment has reached € 100 billion in 2007.

Already today EU companies in many sectors have chosen Singapore as a hub from which to serve the Pacific Rim region, and the FTA would seek to create additional trade and investment opportunities. The ASEAN markets have been identified as priority markets for EU exporters. Last December, EU Member States had given the green light for the Commission to pursue negotiations towards free trade agreements with individual ASEAN countries, beginning with Singapore.


India (Wednesday 3 rd – Thursday 4 th March 2010)

India is one of the fastest growing economies that will reshape the global economic order in the twenty-first century. It combines a sizable and dynamic market of more than 1 billion people with a growth rate of between 8 and 10 %. Its middle class is half the size of the EU with a purchasing power similar to certain EU countries.

India already is an important trading partner for the EU corresponding to € 61 billion in trade in goods in 2008. Although it is far from the closed market that it was twenty years ago, India still maintains substantial tariff and non-tariff barriers that hold trade with the EU below its potential.

The EU and India aim to increase their trade in both goods and services through the negotiations for an ambitious and comprehensive Free Trade Agreement that were launched in 2007.

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