World Economy

EU to Explore Possibility of Talks With ASEAN

EU to Explore Possibility of Talks With ASEAN
EU to Explore Possibility of Talks With ASEAN

The European Union will explore the possibility of resuming talks on a free trade agreement with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations more than six years after negotiations between the two sides collapsed.

Officials will meet toward the end of 2015 to “take stock” of developments in the two regions that will help to decide when talks may restart, EU Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmstroem told reporters in Kuala Lumpur Sunday after meeting with Southeast Asian economic ministers. She declined to give a timeframe when a decision will be made to resume negotiations, Bloomberg said.

“The whole purpose of this exercise that we are putting into motion by the end of the year is to identify what are the main difficulties, what could be a possible deadline,” she said. “We know there are differences and challenges, that’s why we took a break in our negotiations a few years ago but many things have changed, in Europe and here as well since then.”

Trade between the EU and ASEAN rose to $248.2 billion last year, rising from $242.6 billion in 2012, according to a joint statement. The EU is ASEAN’s second-largest trading partner, while the European grouping is the biggest source of foreign direct investment inflows into the Southeast Asian region.

Negotiations between the EU and Malaysia for a free trade agreement stalled after the seventh round in April 2012. The two sides weren’t able to “resolve the most difficult issues,” Malmstroem said in a speech to business leaders Sunday.

Both need to be clear that they are ready to achieve an “ambitious deal” before restarting talks, she said.

That means relooking at offers on tariffs, transparency of regulation and market access on services, export taxes and public procurement, she said.