At the meeting of the foreign ministers of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and the European Union in Brunei today, the Foreign Minister of Estonia, Urmas Paet, said that Estonia is in favour of minimum trade restrictions between the EU and South Asian states in order to increase mutual economic openness. “After the EU, ASEAN is the second most integrated regional organisation in the world and, therefore, a natural partner for the EU,” Paet noted. “ASEAN is the third largest trading partner of the EU and the EU is the largest investor in Southeast Asia.”
According to Paet, it is important to continue making trade agreements between the EU and Southeast Asian states. “The ultimate goal is a interregional free trade agreement between the EU and ASEAN,” Paet said. “Hopefully, the bilateral trade negotiations with Singapore and Malaysia will be concluded this year and talks with Vietnam will begin in the near future,” he added.
Paet said that it is in Estonia's interest to improve ties with Southeast Asian states, in political as well as economic areas. “These agreements between the EU and ASEAN provide great conditions for that,” he added.
According to Paet, Estonia supports further integration of ASEAN states. “The ASEAN Economic Community to be created by 2015 would, with its common market and production capabilities, form an economic area with a total population of 600 million people and GDP of 1.8 trillion dollars,” he noted.
Since April 1999, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) has included all ten states of the region: Thailand, Indonesia, Singapore, the Philippines, Malaysia, Brunei, Vietnam, Laos, Myanmar and Cambodia. The total population of the region is 600 million people. The organisation was founded by the first five states in 1967 and other states have since joined, most recently Cambodia.
Foreign Minister Urmas Paet is due to hold bilateral meetings with the foreign ministers of Thailand, Myanmar, Vietnam and Singapore.
Estonia supports economic openness with Southeast Asian states