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The EU and ASEAN – partners for joint action in Europe and Asia

Flags of EU and ASEAN

Flags of EU and ASEAN, © Florian Gaertner/photothek.net

21.01.2019 - Article

Security, free trade and climate issues – the EU and ASEAN stand up together for a rules-based order and international standards. The two organisations’ achievements show that it pays to work together.

The annual meeting of EU Foreign Ministers with their counterparts from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) is taking place in Brussels today (21 January). Both organisations have much in common, including their endeavours on behalf of a multilateral world order. Foreign Minister Heiko Maas is representing Germany at the meeting. 

A partnership of committed multilateralists

The EU and ASEAN are natural partners in many ways. Both organisations promote cooperation and the peaceful balancing of interests in their respective regions. Both the EU, with its 28 Member States, and the ASEAN’s ten Member States work to foster a multilateral world order. They are united in the firm belief that the major global challenges of our time, such as the future of globalisation, climate change and trade issues, can only be met by working together. As a result, ASEAN and the EU have been close dialogue partners for over 40 years. 

It’s the economy, partner!

On trade issues in particular, the two organisations are on the same page and champion free world trade. In terms of trade in goods, the EU is already the ASEAN countries’ second-largest partner. Moreover, the EU is the largest foreign investor in the region. The ASEAN area is also an important hub for flows of goods from Europe. Every day, huge amounts of goods from the EU are transported via the Strait of Malacca between Indonesia and Malaysia, through which a quarter of global maritime trade passes in total. 
For both sides, the benefits of close economic links are still nowhere near exhausted. In order to facilitate trade between Europe and the economically dynamic ASEAN region to an even greater extent, the EU is currently negotiating free trade agreements with several ASEAN Member States. In the long term, the EU and ASEAN are pursuing the ambitious goal of establishing free trade between the two economic regions as a whole. 

Working together to combat climate change

As a result of its vast coastlines and tens of thousands of islands, Southeast Asia is particularly affected by climate change. Many ASEAN countries have to cope with the effects of severe storms and flooding every year. Climate protection is thus of the utmost importance for Southeast Asian countries. ASEAN and the EU also share many climate-policy interests. Germany and the EU stand shoulder to shoulder with ASEAN as partners in the fight against the alarming effects of climate change.

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