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Aug 07, 2021 / 05:08

ASEAN-EU set to embark on free trade deal negotiation

A potential ASEAN-EU free trade agreement (FTA) should be based on existing trade deals between the EU and ASEAN members, including Vietnam.

ASEAN and the EU agree to work on the possibility of an FTA between the two in the future while pushing for the signing of the ASEAN-EU Comprehensive Air Transport Agreement (CATA).

 Overview of the meeting. Source: baoquocte.vn

The moves were revealed during the ASEAN-EU Ministerial Meeting held under the virtual format on August 6, under the framework of the 54th ASEAN Foreign Ministers’ Meeting (AMM-54).

At the meeting, High Representative of the EU for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Josep Borrell Fontelles stressed the importance of the EU-ASEAN relations, expecting further improvements in bilateral strategic ties.

Joseph Borrell welcomed the completion of negotiation for the CATA, which is expected to provide a closer connection among 37 countries of the two blocs.

According to Joseph Borrell, the EU has so far contributed EUR3 billion ($3.5 billion) for low- and middle-income countries in Covid-19 vaccine access via the COVAX Facility, in which 33 million doses would be earmarked for Southeast Asian countries.

ASEAN foreign ministers welcomed the Team Europe program worth EUR800 million ($942.6 million) supporting ASEAN in the fight against the pandemic; and the “Southeast Asia Health Pandemic Response and Preparedness” project with a budget of EUR20 million ($23.7 million).

Representatives agreed that both blocs as the two most successful regional organizations in the world should prioritize their efforts in containing the pandemic and subsequent sustainable recovery process.

Joseph Borrell added ASEAN and EU are expected to continue cooperating in economic, trade, and investment fields, along with digital transformation, digital economy, cybersecurity, climate change, green growth, and energy.

Meanwhile, both sides reaffirmed the necessity to ensure a peaceful, secure, and stable environment in the region to create spaces for countries to focus on the Covid-19 fight while expressing strong support for a stable and safe East Sea with freedom of navigation.

ASEAN and EU continue to promote dialogue towards the soon finalization of the Code of Conduct for the East Sea (COC) that is in line with international law, including the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).

Vietnam’s Foreign Minister Bui Thanh Son highlighted the ASEAN-EU strategic partnership, seen as a key factor to promote multilateral cooperation.

Son called on the EU to provide vaccines and technologies for vaccine production for ASEAN.

“EU as a key partner of ASEAN should work with the Southeast Asian bloc to keep the supply chains intact,” said Son, noting a potential ASEAN-EU FTA should be based on existing trade deals between the EU and other ASEAN members, including Vietnam.

Son added ASEAN remains firm on its stance regarding the East Sea that peaceful solutions based on international law are the only option to address territorial disputes.

“The 1982 UNCLOS is the legal framework governing all activities on seas and oceans, and lawful rights of coastal countries protected by UNCLOS should be respected,” Son stressed.