Our economic relations with Southeast Asia are strong. For many years, the EU has been the main source of foreign direct investment in ASEAN and one of its main trading partners. We have already concluded important free trade agreements with Singapore and Vietnam, as well as with Japan and Korea, and we are negotiating with several other countries, including Indonesia, Australia and New Zealand. These agreements have helped to maintain trade despite the pandemic, for example by significantly increasing imports of organic chemicals and essential medicines from Singapore. The RCEP agreement is proof that ASEAN has managed to place itself at the centre of its region, even as the major powers tend to lose their weight. ASEAN has also developed an “Indo-Pacific space perspective” which, in a context of growing security and political tensions, underlines the need to keep the area open, stable, inclusive and subject to rules. It is clear that the Indo-Pacific area will be the most dynamic region in the world and the centre of growth for decades to come. The region`s success in managing the COVID 19 pandemic, certainly in relation to Europe and the United States, has further reinforced this trend. Maddalen MARTIN-ARTECHE, The Comprehensive Regional Economic Partnership Agreement: the future largest free trade agreement MEIG Highlight No. 2/2020, www.meig.ch I am determined to extend our cooperation with ASEAN and develop our own vision of how the EU should integrate the wider Pacific region. As elsewhere, the key question is what the regional order will be.
As I said, the agreed rules make states safe, people free and businesses ready to invest. Many Member States have already concluded free trade agreements, but there are restrictions. Many years ago, in February 2015, when the Trans-Pacific Partnership was signed, President Obama said that agreements like this allow us to “write the rules of the road in the 21st century.” But history took another turn when President Trump withdrew from the TPP in his first days in office (which eventually advanced without the United States and became the CPTPP).