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Asean revives FTA talks with Europe

A working group representing the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) and the European Union (EU) would meet this month to explore the possibility of having a free trade agreement (FTA) between the two large economic blocs, a top official said.

Trade and Industry Secretary Ramon Lopez told reporters on Friday that the meeting would mainly be “exploratory discussions,” months after both sides announced that they were reviving the multilateral trade deal.

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In 2009, negotiations on an EU-Asean FTA were suspended to make way for bilateral talks between EU and individual Asean member-states. However, in March, top officials announced in a forum that they would go back to the drawing board in a bid to revive the region-to-region deal amid a rising tide of global protectionism.

The intent to resume talks came on the heels of US President Donald Trump pulling out of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP)—a timing which Lopez described then as nothing more than a “coincidence.”

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The hole that would be left behind by a TPP, which was deemed dead without US participation, would provide momentum for the EU-Asean FTA especially since four Asean member-states—Brunei, Malaysia, Singapore and Vietnam—were supposed to be part of the US-led mega trade deal.

Lopez reiterated that this would not affect the bilateral FTA between the Philippines and the European Union. The third round of negotiations, however, still has not been scheduled after the second round wrapped up earlier this year.

The possibility of an FTA becomes more important especially since the Generalized System of Preference Plus (GSP+), which started in December 2014, would only last nine years.

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TAGS: Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean), Business, free trade agreement (FTA), uropean Union (EU)
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