Rasmei Kampuchea Daily/Asia News Network
Rasmei Kampuchea Daily/Asia News Network –Officials and business representatives from the 10 ASEAN member states came together yesterday in Siem Reap, Cambodia to discuss the challenges and opportunities of free trade agreements, as well as ways that ASEAN would benefit from free trade agreements, according to a press release of the EU delegation in Cambodia. “With a series of 10 workshops all over ASEAN, starting here today in Siem Reap, the EU-ASEAN cooperation will provide a forum for ASEAN trade practitioners and officials to reflect on trade issues, which really matter. We expect a meaningful contribution to enhance mutual understanding on trade matters and the negotiation processes, because trade is such an important affair,” said Andreas Roettger, Head of Economic and Regional Cooperation of the Delegation of the European Union to ASEAN
“Free trade is not only essential for economic development and growth in support of competitiveness, consumer welfare and poverty reduction, it brings together people and ideas. ASEAN and the EU are already keen and important trading partners—the EU being the largest export market for ASEAN. Both regional blocks can only benefit if this partnership prospers further,” Roettger said During the event, participants will also engage in negotiation simulation exercises that focus on trade negotiating techniques, methodologies and tools. The four-day event coincides with Cambodia’s hosting of the ASEAN Senior Economic Officials Meeting (SEOM) in Siem Reap on Jan. 17-19. The “Enhancing ASEAN FTA Negotiating Capacity Program” is a 2.5-million-euro (US$3.1 million) technical cooperation program funded by the EU for the benefit of ASEAN’s member states. It supports ASEAN economic integration and facilitates ASEAN’s preparedness for participating in FTA negotiations. The program is designed to provide high-quality training, cutting-edge research and analysis, and bilateral FTA negotiations for government and private sector representatives of the ASEAN member states and ASEAN Secretariat officials. It covers a broad range of trade and investment issues and addresses traditional and non-traditional issues and newer 21st century challenges. In addition, the “Enhancing ASEAN FTA Negotiating Capacity Program” will conduct awareness-raising seminars on a wide range of international trade, investment, globalization and related political economy and socio-economic issues, which will be opened to the public, private and civil society sectors. Issues were chosen to reflect the interests and needs of the ASEAN Member States. ASEAN as a whole represents the EU’s 3rd largest trading partner outside Europe (after the U.S. and China) with more than 175 billion euros (US$222 billion) of trade in goods and services in 2010 (according to ASEAN statistical data). The EU represents ASEAN’s largest export partner with exports worth more than 90 billion euros (US$114 billion) in 2011 and ensuring an annual trade surplus to ASEAN of nearly 25 billion euros (US$31 billion). EU and ASEAN started regional negotiations in 2007 which were also designed to contribute to ASEAN’s process of regional integration. Although these negotiations are currently suspended and the process is following a bilateral track, the EU still believes that a region-to-region free trade agreement makes political and economic sense in the long term.