ASEAN economic ministers, EU trade commissioner to strengthen EU-ASEAN ties

MANILA-- European Union (EU) Trade Commissioner Cecilia MalmstrAlm will arrive in Manila on Thursday to meet ASEAN trade officials for the 15th ASEAN Economic Ministers (AEM)-EU Trade Consultations on March 10.

The meeting aims to strengthen trade and investment relations between the two economic blocs.

"This meeting is an important occasion to reaffirm the strong ties between the EU and ASEAN and our joint commitment to good trade relations. At the meeting, we can lay the foundation to facilitate the work of our respective businesses, and for connecting across our two regions," MalmstrAlm said.

In a statement of the Delegation of the EU to the Philippines on Wednesday, MalmstrAlm wants to advance discussions for EU-ASEAN Free Trade Agreement (FTA).

Currently, EU has FTA with Singapore and Vietnam, while in negotiations for free trade pact with the Philippines and Indonesia.

In 2016, two-way trade between ASEAN and the EU reached 208 billion euro.

ASEAN exports of goods to EU market doubled since 2009, while bilateral trade in services in 2015 stood at 79.6 billion euro ,which grew threefold over a decade.

On the other hand, foreign direct investments from EU into ASEAN increased by 57 percent to 23.3 billion euro in 2015 from 2014 figures.

During the trade consultations, MalmstrAlm will reaffirm EU's support to ASEAN integration through cooperation programs such as ASEAN Regional Integration Support from the EU (ARISE), the EU-ASEAN Project on Intellectual Property Rights (ECAP III), and the ASEAN Air Transport Integration Project (AATIP).

These programs aim to facilitate ASEAN Trade Repository (ATR), ASEAN Solutions for Investments, Services and Trade (ASSIST), and ASEAN Stats.

"Establishing a region-to-region free trade area would act as a powerful catalyst for even closer mutually beneficial economic relationships. Our Ministers will now discuss the way forward when they meet in Manila," EU Ambassador Franz Jessen noted.

Moreover, MalmstrAlm will also attend the EU-ASEAN Business Summit on Friday.

She will be meeting ASEAN Secretary General Le Luong Minh, Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) Secretary Ramon Lopez, and Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) Governor Amando Tetangco Jr. during the summit.

Meanwhile, the EU Delegation here mentioned no scheduled meeting of MalmstrAlm with President Rodrigo Duterte.

Source: Philippines News Agency