MANILA—The ASEAN and the European Union (EU) have expressed interest to resume rounds of negotiations for a free trade agreement (FTA).
During the joint press conference of the 15th ASEAN Economic Ministers (AEM)-EU Trade Commissioner Consultations here on Friday, Philippine Trade Secretary and AEM Chairman Ramon Lopez said the two parties had discussed future steps to re-launch the FTA discussions.
“In order to reinforce the momentum, the AEM and EU Trade Commissioner tasked the Senior Economic Officials to develop a framework encompassing the parameters of a future ASEAN-EU FTA, and to report back to the next AEM-EU Trade Commissioner Consultations,” Lopez said.
To support the resumption of the FTA talks, the trade chief said that AEM and EU Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmström had endorsed during the consultations the ASEAN-EU Trade and Investment Work Programme for 2017-2018.
Lopez said that the ASEAN-EU Trade and Investment Work Programme for 2017-2018 aimed to enhance economic cooperation between ASEAN and the EU by addressing emerging challenges and capitalizing on opportunities for trade and investments.
Moreover, Malmström reaffirmed EU’s commitment to enhance trade and investment cooperation with the ASEAN.
She noted that the relation between the two regions is “vibrant, good, and developing”.
“From the European Union, we are very committed to strengthening and developing our EU-ASEAN relations,” the visiting EU trade commissioner said.
“We are committed to open-trade and advancing positive, win-win global trade agenda. So, it is important to find like-minded partners here in ASEAN to see the value of trade,” she added.
It was in 2007 when ASEAN and the EU began the FTA negotiations. However, discussions were halted two years later.
But, EU has continued talks with ASEAN countries for bilateral FTAs.
To date, EU has FTA with Singapore and Vietnam, while pursuing rounds of negotiations for trade deals with the Philippines and Indonesia.
“We believe it is important to connect to growing markets and to take away as many obstacles to trade as possible. Having a region-to-region agreement between the EU and the ASEAN is a long term goal that we’ve been discussing for many years and we are taking steps forward,” Malmström said.
On Friday, the 15th AEM-EU Trade Commissioner Consultations gathers top trade officials of the 10 member states of ASEAN and the EU.
The meeting was attended by Brunei Darussalam Permanent Secretary of Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade Dato Paduka Lim Jock Hoi; Cambodian Minister of Commerce Pan Sorasak; Indonesian Minister of Trade Enggratiasto Lukita; Director General of the Ministry of Industry of Commerce of Lao PDR Laohoua Cheutching;
Malaysian Minister of International Trade and Industry Dato Sri Mustapa Mohamed; Deputy Minister for Planning and Finance of Myanmar Maung Maung Win; Singapore Minister of Trade and Industry Lim Hng Kiang; Thailand Minister of Commerce Apiradi Tantraporn; Vietnam Minister of Industry and Trade Tran Tuan Anh; Philippines’ Lopez; EU’s Malmström; and ASEAN Secretary General Le Luong Minh.
The consultation with the EU trade commissioner coincided with 23rd AEM Retreat and Related Meetings hosted by the Philippines from March 8 to 10.