A partnership among equals?

02 April 2009
>Download the publication In May 2007, the European Union launched its New Partnership for the 21st Century with Asia. The initiative consisted of simultaneous negotiations for free trade agreements with India, Korea and ASEAN. With this move, the EU, which leads the world in number of signed FTAs and EPAs, now effectively covers the entire globe and in a better position to compete against fellow economic superpowers- the US, Japan, and China. The proposed EU-ASEAN FTA aims for reciprocal and progressive liberalization of substantially all goods and services, and the inclusion of the so-called Singapore issues – of investment, competition policy, government/ public procurement, and trade facilitation- already rejected by developing countries in the WTO Doha Round negotiations. The proposed agreement would also target regulatory frameworks and establish standards and conformity assessments, which aim to create a more conducive environment for business. The negotiations are targeted to be completed in two to three years time. What will be the effect of the FTA on economic development in Southeast Asia? How will the proposed agreement affect the asymmetries within the region? Will it help address the development gaps that exist within the region or will it only exacerbate the disparities and widen the development divide? The EU-ASEAN FTA Campaign initiated in 2007 a research project that would examine the nature and scope of EU-ASEAN Relations. The first phase of that project was the conduct of country-level studies. We have so far been able to complete studies in Indonesia, Philippines and Thailand and we expect reports from Vietnam and Malaysia very soon.