March 14, 2017
Negotiations on a trade agreement between the European Union (EU) and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) originally started back in 2007. They were put on ice in 2009 as the EU decided to pursue talks with individual members of ASEAN. So far, the EU has concluded, but not yet ratified, bilateral trade agreements with Singapore and Vietnam. Furthermore, the EU is pursuing negotiations with Indonesia, the Philippines and also, as regards investment protection, with Myanmar.
Trade representatives from the EU and the ASEAN announced that they agreed 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.
The participants to a ministerial meeting last week decided to get 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.
The EU and ASEAN countries will also 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.
The members of ASEAN are Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.
Last summer, at a meeting between Canada's then Minister of International Trade, Chrystia Freeland, and economic ministers of the 10 member states of ASEAN, senior officials were tasked with preparing terms of reference for a feasibility study on the merits of a free trade agreement (FTA) between Canada and the ASEAN region.