The ASEAN Economic Ministers (AEM) and the Trade Commissioner of the European Union (EU) met in Makati City, the Philippines on 16 May 2006 for the 7th AEM-EU Consultation. The Consultation was co-chaired by H.E. Mr. Soulivong Daravong, Minister of Commerce of the Lao PDR, and H.E. Mr. Peter Benjamin Mandelson, EU Trade Commissioner.

ECONOMIC SITUATIONS IN ASEAN AND EU

2. The Ministers exchanged views on global economic developments particularly those which influenced regional economic integration initiatives in both ASEAN and the EU.

3. The Secretary-General of ASEAN briefed the Ministers on the latest developments in the ASEAN region, including the implementation of the eleven priority sectors and current efforts to move closer to the realization of the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC). The Ministers were also briefed on the status of ASEAN’s on-going FTA/CEP (free trade areas/comprehensive economic partnership) negotiations with some of its Dialogue Partners, such as, China, Japan, India, Korea and, Australia and New Zealand.

4. The EU Trade Commissioner updated the ASEAN Ministers on the latest programs and activities undertaken as part of continuing efforts to integrate the European market. He highlighted the challenges facing the EU to match the dynamism of other economies such as those in Asia, in particular the need to exploit comparative advantages and increase competitiveness in order to continue to prosper and provide market opportunities for trading partners such as ASEAN.

5. The Ministers agreed that, despite the satisfactory level of the current ASEAN-EU partnership, there is still scope and much potential for both regions to pursue a more ambitious goal for closer economic integration.

ASEAN-EU ECONOMIC COOPERATION

6. The Ministers reviewed the progress of the various projects and activities undertaken under the ambit of the ASEAN-EU dialogue process. The Ministers noted with satisfaction the status of implementing the ASEAN-EU Programme for Regional Integration Support (APRIS), which the ASEAN Ministers agreed have contributed substantially to ASEAN’s economic integration efforts. The ASEAN Ministers, in particular, expressed their appreciation for the technical assistance and capacity-building offered by APRIS.

7. The Ministers also discussed the implementation of the Trans-Regional EU-ASEAN Trade Initiative (TREATI), particularly the TREATI Work Programme for 2005 which the Ministers endorsed at their last consultations in Ha Long Bay, Viet Nam in April 2005. The Ministers, in reaffirming the continued relevance and value of TREATI as a vehicle towards developing a partnership for regional integration, agreed to look into expanding the scope of the TREATI to include activities that would complement and supplement the deeper and broader level of economic integration envisaged for the current engagement. The Ministers tasked their Senior Economic Officials to look into this matter at their next consultations in July 2006.

ASEAN-EU VISION GROUP

8. The Ministers noted the report of the ASEAN-EU Vision Group which was established to look into the feasibility of a possible ASEAN-EU Free Trade Area and other new initiatives for enhancing economic cooperation and ties between ASEAN and the EU. The Ministers also received the Vision Group’s Report, Trans-regional Partnership for Shared and Sustainable Prosperity.

9. The Ministers exchanged views on the recommendations put forward in the Report and welcomed the recommendations to take the ASEAN-EU Economic Partnership to a higher level based on two pillars through the establishment of a WTO consistent FTA and expansion of economic cooperation that ensures benefits of the FTA are maximized and balanced. The Ministers agreed that the enhanced ASEAN-EU economic relationship would not be just an FTA but in effect a new strategic partnership between friends.

10. The Ministers tasked their Senior Officials to consider how a strategic ASEAN-EU partnership can be developed through the recommendations of the ASEAN-EU Vision Group. As this partnership with the EU progresses, focus and emphasis shall be given to economic and technical cooperation which the EU will continue to provide ASEAN.

INTERNATIONAL AND REGIONAL ECONOMIC ISSUES

11. The Ministers exchanged views on international and regional economic issues, including the latest developments in the WTO and the state-of-play of the on-going negotiations for the Doha Development Agenda. The Ministers reiterated their continuing support for the early accession of Lao PDR and Viet Nam to the WTO. The Ministers also noted the current developments in ASEM.

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OTHER MINISTERS IN ATTENDANCE

  1. H.E. Pehin Dato Lim Jock Seng, Second Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Brunei Darussalam;
  2. H.E. Mr. Cham Prasidh, Senior Minister and Minister of Commerce, Cambodia;
  3. H.E. Ms. Mari Elka Pangestu, Minister of Trade, Indonesia;
  4. Dato’ Sidek Hassan, Secretary-General, Ministry of International Trade and Industry, Malaysia (representing H.E. Dato’ Rafidah Aziz, Minister of International Trade and Industry, Malaysia);
  5. H.E. Brig-Gen Tin Naing Thein, Minister of Commerce, Myanmar
  6. H.E. Mr. Peter B. Favila, Secretary of Trade and Industry, the Philippines;
  7. H.E. Mr. Lim Hng Kiang, Minister for Trade and Industry, Singapore;
  8. H.E. Mr. Uttama Savanayana, Vice Minister for Commerce, Ministry of Commerce, Thailand (representing H.E. Mr. Somkid Jatusripitak, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Commerce, Thailand)
  9. Mr. Tran Dong Phuong, Director-General, Department for Multilateral Trade Policy, Ministry of Trade, Viet Nam (representing H.E. Mr. Truong Dinh Tuyen, Minister of Trade, Viet Nam)
  10. H.E. Mr. Ong Keng Yong, Secretary-General of ASEAN.