Trade leaders from the EU and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) agreed on March 10 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.