From trade to green policies, the two blocs are set to deepen their cooperation in 2023
Free trade agreements, trade and investment, energy transition and green policies. There are many points on which the European Union and ASEAN are moving in the direction of further strengthening relations. Indonesia, the rotating chair of the Southeast Asian bloc of nations for this year, has already shown a firm intention to work hard to implement or foster new trade agreements with Europe. The first intention is to complete the Indonesia-EU Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (IEU CEPA). Given the comprehensiveness and high level of ambition of the IEU CEPA, which covers 16 negotiating areas, this is a daunting task but one on which Jakarta has high hopes. The 13th round of negotiations, convened Feb. 6-10, was an initial test case for the prospects of completing the agreement by the end of 2023. And the feeling is that everything will be done to get it done. Singapore and Vietnam have already implemented trade agreements with the EU. A successful conclusion of the IEU CEPA would stimulate Thailand, Malaysia and the Philippines to resume negotiations for similar agreements. As The Diplomat points out, bilateral free trade agreements between the EU and ASEAN countries will then serve as building blocks for a future EU-ASEAN agreement, which will kick the relationship between the two blocs into even higher gear. Then there is the chapter on environmental policies. The European Green Deal is considered among the EU's top priorities in the 2023 strategy on ASEAN and Indonesia. Southeast Asian countries are getting serious about energy transition goals, but some obstacles remain to be overcome. Most notably the EU's no-deforestation rules, which have been negatively received by Indonesia and Malaysia, the world's two largest palm oil producers, who have deemed them "discriminatory" against developing countries. However, the EU has reassured that it is determined to resolve the issue diplomatically, indeed congratulating Jakarta on its progress: "Indonesia's achievements to stop deforestation are remarkable. The target date has been set for December 2022 and there are no sanctions for what has happened in the past," said EU Ambassador to Jakarta Vincent Piket recently. All sides seem intent on resolving any doubts to further strengthen cooperation between the two blocs. At all levels.