The initial successes of the implementation of high-quality free trade agreements (FTAs) between the EU and ASEAN member states, such as the FTA between the EU and Vietnam, along with the FTA between the EU and Singapore, will provide a solid foundation towards one day having an FTA between ASEAN and the EU.
Minister of Industry and Trade Tran Tuan Anh speaks at the event
These remarks were made by Minister of Industry and Trade Tran Tuan Anh during the eighth edition of the ASEAN-EU Business Summit that is running with the theme of “Towards an inclusive, resilient and stronger ASEAN” which was held via an online platform on November 19 in Singapore.
The occasion saw the participation of more than 250 delegates, including policy makers and business leaders from both Europe and Southeast Asia.
Some of the major issues under discussion at the meeting were focused on promoting digital economic development and transformation, e-commerce, and searching for ways to ensure a sustainable health care system that can be provided at a suitable cost for people in the ASEAN region. In addition, opportunities that exist for European businesses amid ASEAN’s economic recovery process following the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic were also mentioned.
During his speech, Singaporean Industry and Trade Minister Chan Chun Sing reaffirmed that both sides can be connected by digital platforms and standards, and should not be divided based on the issue of geographical distance.
Moving forward, there are now greater opportunities for like-minded countries to co-ordinate and establish high-standard regulations aimed at addressing digital trade-related issues, the Singaporean Minister said. Indeed, a digital economy agreement (DEA) will be a major step to achieve digital connectivity between the two sides.
In his speech, Vietnamese Minister of Industry and Trade Tran Tuan Anh stated that the EU represents ASEAN's second largest trading partner throughout the 2009 to 2018 period, as well as being ASEAN's largest investor with total direct investment capital of US$190 billion.
Minister Anh also expressed optimism regarding the future of the ASEAN-EU relationship, thereby encouraging the two blocs to take full advantage of potential opportunities moving past the COVID-19 pandemic that could establish resilience and economic prosperity.
Citing the EU-Vietnam free trade agreement (EVFTA), Minister Anh said that these high-quality FTAs serve to have a positive impact on the Vietnamese economy, along with helping to improve the governance processes, along with moving the Vietnamese legal system towards greater transparency and openness.
According to the Vietnamese Minister, both sides should continue to accelerate a range of economic and trade co-operation activities at bilateral and regional levels with a particular focus on urgent issues for the business community, including supply chain connectivity and non-tariff barriers.
ASEAN and the EU are also in the process of exchanging ideas to speed up the resumption of FTA negotiations. This is being done by strengthening dialogue activities at all levels and across all areas of mutual concern, as well as building the scope of tentative FTA negotiations between the two sides, the Vietnamese trade official noted.
Most notably, European businesses still want the EU to negotiate an FTA with ASEAN as opposed to bilateral FTAs between the EU and various ASEAN member states. Currently, the EU is conducting bilateral FTA negotiations with Indonesia and the Philippines.
The ASEAN - EU Business Summit represents an important annual event of the EU-ASEAN Business Council that aims to open a policy dialogue on issues that affect businesses and economies. This year’s conference is seeing the discussion of outstanding issues that ASEAN should primarily focus on promoting after the COVID-19 pandemic. Previous conferences have been held in Thailand, Indonesia, Vietnam, Cambodia, Malaysia, and the Philippines.
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