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Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN)

EU trade relations with the Association of South East Asian Nations. Facts, figures and latest developments.

Country or region
  • Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN)
Trade topics
  • Negotiations and agreements

The ASEAN region is a dynamic market with some 660 million consumers and ranks as one of the top eight economies in the world. The countries as a group are the EU's third-largest trading partner outside Europe, after the US and China.

ASEAN countries: Brunei Darussalam, Myanmar/Burma, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, Vietnam

Ensuring better access for EU exporters to the dynamic ASEAN market is a priority for the EU. Negotiations for a region-to-region trade and investment agreement between the EU and ASEAN were launched in 2007 and paused by mutual agreement in 2009 to give way to a bilateral format of negotiations.

These bilateral trade and investment agreements were conceived as building blocks towards a future region-to-region agreement.

Negotiations with Singapore and Malaysia were launched in 2010, with Vietnam in June 2012, with Thailand in March 2013, with the Philippines in December 2015 and with Indonesia in July 2016.

So far, the EU has completed negotiations for bilateral agreements with two of them (Singapore in 2014 and Vietnam in 2015), while negotiations with Malaysia and the Philippines are currently on hold.

Negotiations with Indonesia are ongoing and negotiations with Thailand resumed recently, with the goal of further deepening bilateral trade and investment relations with both countries. Bilateral Free Trade Agreements (FTAs) between the EU and ASEAN countries can serve as building blocks towards a future EU-ASEAN agreement, which remains a long-term objective.

Negotiations of an investment protection agreement with Myanmar (Burma) are put on hold.

At regional level, the European Commission and ASEAN Member States undertook a stocktaking exercise to explore the prospect of resuming region-to-region negotiations but concluded that their respective positions remain too far apart. In September 2022, the ASEAN Economic Ministers-EU Consultation resulted in a decision to re-orient the Joint EU-ASEAN Working Group for the development of a Framework setting out the parameters of a future ASEAN-EU FTA. The Joint Working Group will now focus on sectoral cooperation on the digital economy, green technologies and green services, and supply-chain resilience. It is expected to hold its next meeting in June 2023. 

Trade picture

  • ASEAN as a whole represents the EU's third-largest trading partner outside Europe (after China and the US) with some €252.5 billion of trade in goods in 2023. Bilateral trade in services amounted to €126.1 billion in 2022.
  • The EU is ASEAN’s third-largest trading partner after China and the US, accounting for 8% of ASEAN trade.
  • The EU is the third-largest investor in ASEAN countries. In 2022, its Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) stocks into ASEAN accounted for €400.1 billion. Although a more recent phenomenon, ASEAN investment in Europe has also been growing steadily and impressively to a total stock of over €195.6 billion in 2021.
  • The EU's main exports to ASEAN are chemical products, machinery and transport equipment. The main imports from ASEAN to the EU are machinery and transport equipment, agricultural products, and other manufactured goods.

The EU and the Association of South East Asian Nations

Besides trade negotiations with individual ASEAN Member States, the EU cooperates closely with the ASEAN region as a whole. Cooperation between the two regions is framed by a biannual ASEAN-EU Trade and Investment Work Programme, which is articulated along the following activities:

  • an EU-ASEAN dialogue, which includes discussions on trade and investment issues at ministerial and senior economic officials levels;
  • biregional expert dialogue groups;
  • cooperation activities, and;
  • regular organisation by business of ASEAN-EU Business Summits.

Trade-related assistance to ASEAN

The EU also finances regional projects relating to trade such as:

  • ASEAN Regional Integration Support from the EU (ARISE PLUS);
  • COMPASS (Statistics and integration monitoring);
  • ASEAN Project on the Protection of Intellectual Property Rights (ECAP III);
  • ASEAN Air Transport Integration Project (AATIP), and;
  • Enhanced Regional EU-ASEAN Dialogue Instrument (e-READI).

Committees and Dialogues

The EU and ASEAN countries meet regularly to discuss issues and best practices and oversee the proper functioning of the agreement.

Trading with the Association of South East Asian Nations