The European Union and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) will try to give a second chance and breath a fresh air to the talks on a trade deal as Europeans seek to utilize the region’s potential and strong economic growth. Both sides launched negotiations towards a trade pact in 2007 but abandoned them two years later after which Brussels decided to pursue bilateral talks with each member state. The talks on individual basis had only a limited success, with agreements so far finalized only with Singapore and lately also Vietnam, but both have yet to be implemented. Moreover, the Singapore deal has been challenged by a European Court of Justice, which suggested that Brussels does not have the right to finalize the deal by itself.
EU Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmström said that both sides decided to establish a framework for revived talks but have not yet committed to a timeline. “We believe it is important to connect two growing markets and to take away as many obstacles to trade,” she said and added that “having a region-to-region agreement between EU and ASEAN is a long-term goal we’ve been discussing for many years. We are now taking steps towards this.”
An FTA between the EU and ASEAN would connect Europe to the world’s seventh-largest market and one with an expanding consumer and middle-class focus, mostly in Vietnam and the Philippines. The ASEAN has a combined population of 622 million people and an export- and consumption-driven economy that is worth $2.6 trillion. The first round of the EU-ASEAN talks failed mostly due to the problems with setting common standards within ASEAN as well as due to major differences in the size of the populations and economies of individual ASEAN members. Moreover, a poor human rights trade record has also been an issue for some Asian countries since the EU considers human rights as being an important aspect in its trade policies.