Jakarta Globe | 26 January 2024
EU-ASEAN trade deal remains long-term objective: Envoy
by Jayanty Nada Shofa
Jakarta. The European Union (EU) recently said that reviving the regional trade pact with ASEAN remained a “long-term objective” as the group tried to finish similar negotiations with the individual members of the Southeast Asian bloc.
ASEAN and the EU began negotiating a region-to-region free trade agreement (FTA) back in 2007. The talks were suspended two years later after seven negotiating rounds. Since then, the EU has been pursuing bilateral trade deals with the individual ASEAN economies, including Indonesia. Although years have passed since the negotiations stopped, a regional FTA is still on the agenda, according to EU Ambassador to ASEAN Sujiro Seam.
“The answer is in the joint leaders’ statement. There is a recognition that an EU-ASEAN FTA remains a long-term objective,” Seam told reporters in Jakarta on Thursday evening, when asked if there were plans to relaunch the talks.
Seam was referring to the joint leaders’ statement that came out of the EU-ASEAN summit in 2022. A copy of the statement showed that both sides reaffirmed a future FTA as a common long-term objective. At the same time, they agreed to explore cooperation in the digital economy, green technologies and services, as well as supply chain resilience.
“So there is an agreement to focus on dialogue on those three particular areas, … while at the same time, continuing with the bilateral FTA negotiations,” Seam said.
Indonesia is trying to finish a comprehensive economic partnership with the EU by later this year. Thailand last year agreed to restart the talks on a similar deal with the EU. The FTAs are already in effect for Singapore and Vietnam. Negotiations with the Philippines and Malaysia are put on hold.
“We are reassessing the opportunities of reopening those negotiations with the Philippines and Malaysia,” Seam told the press.
“The point is we are using these bilateral FTAs as building blocks towards a regional trade agreement between the EU and ASEAN,” Seam said.
Data shows that ASEAN represents the EU’s third largest trading partner outside Europe (after China and the US) with more than €271.8 billion ($294 billion) of trade in goods in 2022.