The EU and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) have agreed to take new steps toward resuming region-to-region trade talks.
The commitment was made in a joint statement issued after a meeting between the ASEAN Economic Ministers and the EU Trade Commissioner on March 10, 2017.
The ministers have asked their senior economic officials to "develop a framework encompassing the parameters of a future ASEAN-EU free trade agreement, and to report back to the next AEM-EU Trade Commissioner Consultations." They also agreed to organize expert meetings in new areas of cooperation such as public procurement, e-commerce, and simplifying trade for small- and medium-sized enterprises.
EU Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmström commented: "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."
Negotiations on an EU-ASEAN trade agreement originally started in 2007. However, the EU began to pursue the talks in separate settings with individual members of ASEAN as of 2009. The EU has concluded bilateral trade agreements with ASEAN members Singapore and Vietnam, but these agreements have yet to be ratified. Negotiations are underway with Indonesia and the Philippines, and with Myanmar for an investment-only agreement.