EU: Strengthening strategic partnership with ASEAN, India

BRUSSELS – The EU is seeking to deepen its trade ties with Asian countries to promote economic prosperity and limit the influence of China and Russia in the region. To this end, it is currently negotiating with several countries about reducing trade barriers, including India, Indonesia, and Thailand. These countries are among the ten members of ASEAN, a regional organization for economic and political cooperation in Southeast Asia.

Negotiations on a free trade agreement between the EU and India resumed in May 2023 after a long break. The two sides are seeking a comprehensive agreement that would improve market access for goods and services, investment, public procurement, intellectual property, sustainable development, and other areas.

The EU is India’s largest trading partner and most important foreign investor. A successful agreement could increase trade volumes between the two partners by up to 30 percent.

Negotiations with Indonesia began in July 2016 and are at an advanced stage. The EU is Indonesia’s third-largest trading partner and the largest exporter of goods to Indonesia. The proposed agreement is intended to reduce tariffs and non-tariff barriers to trade, strengthen cooperation in areas such as energy, the environment, human rights, and labor standards, and create new investment opportunities. The agreement could increase Indonesia’s gross domestic product by up to 0.6 percent.

Negotiations with Thailand began in November 2013 but were suspended in May 2014 after the Thai military seized power. Talks resumed in October 2019 after Thailand held democratic elections. The EU is Thailand’s fourth-largest trading partner and the largest foreign investor in the country. The planned agreement is intended to facilitate trade in goods and services, increase legal certainty for investors, promote cooperation in areas such as development, migration, security, and human rights, and make a contribution to climate protection. The agreement could increase Thailand’s gross domestic product by up to 1.63 percent.

The EU hopes to complete negotiations with these countries by the end of 2024 and have the agreements ratified by the end of 2025. The agreements would significantly facilitate trade between the EU and Asian countries and lead to increased growth, jobs, and competitiveness. They would also strengthen the strategic partnership between the EU and ASEAN and reaffirm the EU’s role as a global actor. (zia)