Merkel pushes Southeast Asia, EU free trade pact
Friday, July 13, 2012
INDONESIA: German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Wednesday said Europe must step up its efforts to establish a free trade pact with booming Southeast Asia.
“I am deeply convinced that Europe has to hurry up in setting up a free trade agreement with this region if it wants to be able to compete,” she said during a visit to Jakarta.
As European nations are struggling to climb out of debt, Southeast Asian nations are experiencing strong growth. Indonesia grew 6.5 percent in 2011 and is forecast to grow at the same pace this year.
On Tuesday, Merkel and Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono pledged to boost trade, which now stands at around $7 billion, and Indonesian officials forecast it to reach $12 billion by 2014.
The 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and the European Union in May 2007 agreed to start free trade agreement talks after years of wrangling over human rights abuses in Myanmar.
The EU has begun negotiating agreements with individual ASEAN states, including Malaysia and Singapore.
Myanmar in April pushed for an EU-ASEAN agreement, citing major reforms in the country.