Asean is set to resume free trade agreement (FTA) talks with the EU after negotiations were suspended since 2009.
According to commerce vice-minister Sansern Samalapa, who acted as the chief negotiator at the Asean Economic Ministers (AEM) meeting on Sept 8-9 with the EU, UK, Switzerland and Russia via teleconference, the European Commission on Trade agreed on a joint trade and investment programme.
The two sides agreed to prepare negotiations for an Asean-EU FTA and hold joint expert meetings to build mutual understanding on new trade issues such as e-commerce, government procurement and sustainable trade and development.
Asean and EU ministers also met with the EU-ASEAN Business Council, which proposed Asean reduce non-tariff trade measures, promote the same product standards in both regions, protect intellectual property rights, promote environmentally friendly energy, use data management for the digital economy, and allow cross-border travel permits, said Mr Sansern.
He said Thailand has emphasised the importance of an Asean-EU FTA because it would create a favourable environment for trade and investment in the region.
The EU started negotiations with Asean on a FTA in 2007. After negotiations were suspended in 2009, the EU decided to pursue bilateral trade agreements with nations.
Six Asean members have begun talks on bilateral FTAs with the EU: Singapore and Malaysia in 2010; Vietnam in 2012; Thailand in 2013; the Philippines in 2015; and Indonesia in 2016. FTAs are in effect with Singapore and Vietnam, ratified in November 2019 and August 2020, respectively.
Negotiations are continuing with Indonesia, while talks are on hold with Malaysia, the Philippines and Thailand.
According to Mr Sansern, the AEM met with Elizabeth Truss, the UK secretary of state for international trade, after the UK was granted the status of dialogue partner with Asean on Aug 2.
The meeting approved a joint ministerial declaration on future economic cooperation between Asean and the UK in 11 areas and assigned senior economic officials from both sides to discuss further plans for cooperation, he said.
Mr Sansern said Thailand supports issues that will benefit Asean such as climate change measures, sustainable development, economic recovery from Covid-19 impacts, the development of small businesses, learning from UK expertise on digital innovation, financial services and education, and trade and investment promotion for an Asean-UK supply chain linkage.