Written by Krisztina Binder,
In 2017, the European Union–Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) dialogue partnership celebrated its 40th anniversary. The same year saw the 50th anniversary of the founding of ASEAN. The ASEAN region is currently the world’s fifth largest economy, a dynamic economic area home to more than 660 million consumers.
To ensure better access to opportunities in the region’s market, the European Union (EU) started negotiations with ASEAN for a region-to-region free trade agreement (FTA) in 2007. After negotiations were suspended in 2009, the EU decided to pursue bilateral trade agreements with the individual ASEAN member states. To date, six have begun talks on bilateral FTAs with the EU: Singapore and Malaysia in 2010; Vietnam in 2012; Thailand in 2013; the Philippines in 2015; and Indonesia in 2016. Negotiations have already been concluded and FTAs entered into force with two of these countries, Singapore and Vietnam, in November 2019 and August 2020, respectively. Negotiations are under way with Indonesia, while talks are currently on hold with Malaysia, the Philippines and Thailand.
In the longer term, these bilateral FTAs would allow the establishment of a region-to-region FTA, which remains the EU’s ultimate ambition. By bringing together two of the world’s largest economic areas, the agreement would establish a free trade area with a combined market of more than 1 billion people.
It is in the EU’s interest to strengthen its economic cooperation with ASEAN, in order to maintain its competitive position in this dynamically developing region. Closer trade and investment relations could also pave the way towards the EU’s goal of a strategic partnership between the two regional blocs, encompassing political as well as economic cooperation.
Read the complete briefing on ‘Trade negotiations between the EU and ASEAN member states‘ in the Think Tank pages of the European Parliament.