Byline: BERNIE CAHILES-MAGKILAT
The proposed EU-ASEAN free trade agreement is slowly gaining momentum as ministers have clarified some issues and mapped out their work as they head for the start of trade negotiations.
A statement by the EU Delegation to the Philippines said that EU Trade Commissioner Peter Mandelson met over 50 negotiators from the ASEAN countries for the 3rd meeting of the Joint Committee for the EU-ASEAN FTA in Brussels from January 30 to Feb. 1
"Strengthening the commitment and focus of EU trade policy in Asia is an important part of the EU's Global Europe trade strategy. An EU-ASEAN FTA is a key part of that," Mandelson stressed during the Joint Committee meeting.
He cited the meeting for having clarified the issues and map out the work ahead.
"I remain strongly committed to a wide-ranging twenty-first century trade agreement, which will require effort from both sides. But the benefits for both sides will certainly be worth the effort," Mandelson.
The 3rd EU-ASEAN Joint Committee was described as an open, frank and constructive exchange of views of the parties on the various issues that the EU would like to see covered under the final agreement.
The discussions took place on the basis of informal issue papers submitted by the European Commission.
All negotiating parties engaged in earnest in the exercise, which allowed for a much better understanding of the respective positions, level of ambitions, needs and constraints.
This exercise will be continued and deepened at the next meetings of the Joint Committee during 2008. The next meeting of the Joint Committee will take place in April in Bangkok to be followed by another two meetings, in July in the Philippines and in October in Vietnam.
An independent research commissioned by the EU Commission on the impact of an FTA showed ASEAN exports to EU rising by 18.5 percent and its economic …