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The EU and ASEAN Reconsider Free Trade Agreement
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The EU and ASEAN Reconsider Free Trade Agreement

ASEAN-EU free trade negotiations are set to resume. Talks about a free trade agreement (FTA) were suspended in 2009, as the European Union (EU) decided to pursue bilateral trade agreements with single nations instead of the whole bloc.

Negotiations with Member States

After the talks came to a halt in 2009, the EU began talks with six out of ten ASEAN member states: Singapore, Malaysia, Vietnam, Thailand, the Philippines, and Indonesia. Today, the only FTAs that are intact are the ones with Singapore and Vietnam. The EU is still in negotiations with Indonesia while talks with Malaysia, the Philippines, and Thailand have halted.

On a related note: The UK has signed a joint ministerial declaration on future economic cooperation between ASEAN and the UK in 11 areas of economic significance. It also engaged in dialogues for further cooperation.

Bigger Would Be Better

Despite having talks on a national level, a comprehensive trade deal on the EU-ASEAN level could also tackle issues that individual member states can hardly handle alone. One example is climate policies, which need a multinational framework. Another example is rules for financial markets or supply chains.


Now, both sides have agreed to resume negotiations and hold joint expert meetings. They will first build mutual understanding on key issues such as e-commerce, sustainability, and government procurement. The ultimate goal is to agree on an FTA to create a favorable framework for trade and investment in ASEAN and give EU companies easier market access.

The EU-ASEAN Business Council has proposed to ASEAN to reduce non-tariff trade measures. Products in both regions should meet the same standards, and the protection of intellectual property rights should be increased. Other topics such as the use of renewable energy, data protection in the digital economy, and smoother procedures for cross-border travel were also discussed.

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