ASEAN, EU Strive for Free Trade Agreement

Posted April 1st, 2012 at 4:40 pm (UTC-5)
Leave a comment

European Union Trade Commissioner Karel De Gucht has urged closer economic ties between the EU and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, or ASEAN.

During a business conference between EU and Asian officials in the Cambodian capital, Phnom Penh, Sunday, De Gucht called on participants to make “concrete progress” on negotiations for a far-reaching free trade agreement between the two regions.

De Gucht noted that the European bloc has already started talks on bilateral trade deals with Singapore and Malaysia and will soon begin negotiations with Vietnam. He also assured Asian leaders that the worst in the ongoing European financial crisis is over.

Trade between the two regions is significant. ASEAN is the EU's third largest trading partner, while the EU is ASEAN's second largest.

The business conference took place ahead of this week's ASEAN summit, also in Cambodia. While a free trade agreement with the EU will be one of the topics, hot button regional issues will also be on the agenda.

Some members will reportedly attempt to raise the thorny issues of competing claims to the resources-rich South China Sea. China and Taiwan claim title to all of the South China Sea, while the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia and Brunei have competing claims to parts of the vast area.