EU hopes for ASEAN trade talks soon

Kuala Lumpur, May 18 :

The European Union (EU) is hoping to launch talks on a free trade pact with Southeast Asia next year, EU trade commissioner Peter Mandelson said.

After issuing a ‘vision report’ on prospects for a trade deal this week, the EU and the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) will talk to governments of member states “for the remainder of this year,” he said. “I hope then that we will all receive the green light,” Mandelson told reporters in Kuala Lumpur on the latest leg of a tour after meeting with regional trade ministers in Manila. “I anticipate that we will but I don’t take anything for granted, to start putting in place the modalities for our negotiations at the turn of the year for negotiations proper to get underway after that.”

There have been concerns that the EU’s criticism of Myanmar’s military government, wh-ich has ignored calls by the EU to free democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi, would pose an obstacle to any EU free trade acco-rd with ASEAN. The EU and US have slapped trade san-ctions on Myanmar, which is an ASE-AN member along with Br-unei, Cambodia, Indonesia, La-os, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.

Single market

MANILA: An ambitious plan to turn ASEAN into a European-style economic community that can counter China and India will be difficult unless the region shelves its protectionism and speeds up the liberalisation of trade in services. — AP