Europe’s New Trade Policy: What’s in it for ASEAN

The EU’s new trade policy outlines its trade strategy for the coming years. However, ASEAN has not been mentioned once in the 23-page long document. Thus, questions are being raised about where ASEAN stands in the EU’s eyes, what should ASEAN and its businesses do to stand out more, and what the future holds for EU-ASEAN trade relations?

On 31 March 2021, the EU-ASEAN Business Council (EU-ABC) hosted a webinar titled: “Europe’s New Trade Policy: What’s in it for ASEAN”. With a panel comprising of H.E. Eduardo de Vega, Philippine Ambassador to Belgium, Luxembourg, and the European Union, Helena König, Deputy Director-General, European Commission’s Directorate-General for Trade, Tan Sri Dato’ Dr Mohd Munir Abdul Majid, Chairman, CARI ASEAN Research and Advocacy and President, ASEAN Business Club, and Alessia Mosca, Secretary-General of the Italia-ASEAN Association.

A Close Partnership with ASEAN is Key to the EU Trade Policy’s Success

Despite ASEAN’s lack of mention in the EU’s new trade policy, the EU needs a strong partnership with ASEAN to achieve its trade policy objectives. König stressed that the EU remains heavily committed to engaging with ASEAN, citing the elevation of EU-ASEAN relations to a strategic partnership in December 2020 as evidence. König highlights that there are many areas of collaboration between the EU and ASEAN, citing issues on Digital Economy, Health, Sustainability, and Connectivity as some examples. Adding on, Mosca mentions that the absence of ASEAN in the EU’s new trade policy is not reflective of the large investments that the EU has been making towards improving ASEAN’s development. Furthermore, König and Mosca expressed their optimism for greater EU-ASEAN collaboration in the future as ASEAN Member States (AMS) have been active in opening new trade relations.

However, König stresses that the EU must acknowledge and accommodate ASEAN’s dynamic and heterogeneous circumstances. It also needs to be tactfully assertive in pushing for the principles it believes in. Echoing König, Dato’ Tan Sri Munir noted that the EU must deal with ASEAN in a more calibrated manner if it wants to maintain a good working relationship.

To find out more:

Download: EU New Trade Policy Webinar

*Document prepared by Ashley Koh, Research Intern of EU-ABC

For those whose missed the webinar, view it here

The team at EU-ASEAN Business Council expresses appreciation to the excellent panel of speakers and moderator, without which the webinar would not have been possible.