Last Updated: 2017-03-27
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KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia March 27 (NNN-Bernama) -- ASEAN and the European Union (EU) are working continuously to forge closer economic partnership via, among others, the implementation of the ASEAN-EU Trade and Investment Work Programme for 2017-2018.

Minister of International Trade and Industry Mustapa Mohamed said the ASEAN-EU Trade and Investment Work Programme could support future negotiations on the ASEAN-EU Free Trade Agreement (FTA).

"Both regional groupings should work on the next steps towards the resumption of the ASEAN-EU FTA negotiations, and in this context tasked the Senior Economic Officials to develop a framework encompassing the parameters of a future ASEAN-EU FTA," he said.

Mustapa said this at the EU-Public Forum in conjunction with the 60th Anniversary of the EU and the Treaty of Rome here, today.

He said ASEAN took note of the high level of ambition the EU had in concluding the FTA.

However, he said ASEAN would require time to strengthen and deepen its own internal economic integration before embarking on a high-quality FTA with the EU.

In building a more meaningful relationship, he said Malaysia was also looking forward to resume talks on the Malaysia-EU FTA, which is of significant importance to Malaysia.

"While I understand the EU's commitment to its people to forge a high-level and deep FTA, it also should apply some level of flexibility in critical areas where there are domestic sensitivities.

"This will address the anticipation of the business sector on both sides hoping for a faster conclusion of the FTA," said Mustapa.

Based on the EU statistics, ASEAN-EU two-way trade stood at 208 billion in 2016, and the EU remained the largest external source of foreign direct investment flows into ASEAN in 2015 with 23.3 billion.

Mustapa said the current state of bilateral relations between Malaysia and the EU remains strong and both sides were committed to further foster and deepen cooperation in various fields.

In 2016, trade with the EU increased by 0.4 per cent to reach RM149.1 billion (32.5 billion).

Malaysia's exports to the EU grew 1.2 per cent to RM79.8 billion (17.4 billion), while Germany, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom, France and Italy remained Malaysia's top five export destinations in the region, added Mustapa.--NNN-BERNAMA