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ASEAN: Free Trade Agreement Planned

(Nov. 8, 2012) The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) is planning to initiate a regional free trade agreement (FTA) in November 2012. In the agreement, ASEAN will partner with six nations, Australia, China, India, Japan, New Zealand, and South Korea, in what is being called a Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership. (Sri Wahyuni & Linda Yulisman, ASEAN to Launch a New Regional FTA with Its Partners, THE JAKARTA POST (Nov. 5, 2012).)

The framework for establishing such regional partnerships was adopted by ASEAN at the 19th ASEAN summit meeting, held in Bali, Indonesia, in November 2011. (ASEAN Framework for Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership, ASEAN website (last visited Nov. 5, 2012).) The framework documents state, among other principles, that the goal “is to achieve a comprehensive and mutually beneficial economic partnership agreement. This agreement shall involve broader and deeper engagement with significant improvements over existing ASEAN FTAs/CEP [Closer Economic Partnerships] with Dialogue Partners.” (Id.)

According to ASEAN Secretary-General Surin Pitsuwan, speaking at the 13th Asia-Europe Business Forum in Vientiane, Laos, the new regional agreement will be a consolidation of existing, separate free trade agreements. He expressed the view that the new agreement will make East Asia more dynamic as a region. (Wahyuni & Yulisman, supra.)

Surin went on to discuss the possibility of an ASEAN-EU free trade agreement, something that has been under discussion since 2005, but is as yet considered too complicated, given that there are 27 EU member states. “Eventually, we will come back to that ASEAN-EU free trade agreement. This will be good for both sides,” he added. (Id.) Trade between the two blocs of nations reached $240 billion in 2011, a level equal to a 6% growth over the previous year. (Id.)

ASEAN was initially an association of five nations, founded in 1967, with the goals of accelerating economic growth, social progress, and cultural development; promoting regional peace; promoting collaboration and mutual assistance in economic, social, cultural, technical, scientific, and administrative fields; aiding each other through training and research facilities; cooperating in agriculture, industry, and trade; promoting Southeast Asian studies; and maintaining relationships with other international and regional organizations. (Overview, ASEAN website (last visited Nov. 5, 2012).) There are at present ten ASEAN member states: Brunei Darussalam, Burma (Myanmar), Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam. (ASEAN Member States, ASEAN website(last visited Nov. 5, 2012).)