EU, ASEAN look towards bilateral free trade agreement: Ambassador hinh anh 1Ambassador of the EU to ASEAN Igor Driesmans (Photo: the ASEAN Secretariat)

Jakarta (VNA) – Concluding a region‐to‐region free trade agreement (FTA) is an objective which the EU and ASEAN share, Ambassador of the EU to ASEAN Igor Driesmans asserted.

In a recent interview granted to the Vietnam News Agency correspondent to Jakarta, Driesmans said the EU and ASEAN are likeminded in our quest for effective multilateralism, not just in trade and business but in all areas – from climate change to maritime security.

“We need international rules to shield us from the logic that “might makes right,” he noted. 

He said in June this year, the two sides discussed the prospects for the resumption of negotiations on an ambitious and comprehensive FTA. They now have bilateral trade agreements in place between the EU and two ASEAN partners, Singapore and Vietnam, and negotiations are ongoing with Indonesia and others. Those and other possible future bilateral agreements could serve as the building blocks towards deeper region‐to‐region relations.

He went on to say that the EU‐ASEAN Joint Working Group has done serious work in preparing the ground for further bi‐ regional engagement. This work shows that, while there are many important areas of commonality, there are also notable gaps, especially in areas of crucial importance to the EU, such as trade and sustainable development, public procurement and intellectual property rights.

“The EU is keen to make progress in these and other areas, and we are ready to engage further,” he stressed.

Congratulating ASEAN on the signing of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), the ambassador said it demonstrates members’ commitment to open, rules‐based trade and strengthens the centrality of ASEAN.  

A more integrated market, doing away with tariffs and non‐tariff barriers will offer more trade and investment opportunities also for EU companies trading with or investing in ASEAN countries, he said, adding that the EU’s approach to trade relations with ASEAN rests on two pillars, bilateral FTAs with members, as building blocks for a region‐to‐region FTA.

“This is exactly what came to conclusion of the regional comprehensive agreement: ASEAN 1 bilateral FTAs now consolidated into the single, overarching RCEP. In this respect, RCEP is a reminder of ASEAN’s centrality in the wider region and the importance of region‐to‐region links,” he stated./.