BRUSSELS: The European Union has agreed to start free trade talks with Indonesia, EU Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said on Thursday, as the growth-hungry bloc presses for improved economic ties with Asian countries.
Juncker said he and EU Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom made progress on Wednesday in discussions with Indonesian President Joko Widodo.
“We have concluded yesterday… preparatory discussions for a comprehensive economic partnership agreement and that’s good news both for Indonesia and the EU,” Juncker told a joint news conference on Thursday.
The comprehensive economic partnership (CEPA), envisaged since 2011, would liberalise trade in goods and services and open up investment and procurement markets with the largest economy in the Association of South East Asia Nations (ASEAN).
The EU has reached free trade deals with Singapore, Vietnam and South Korea as it seeks to sign deals with the 10-member ASEAN on a country-by-country basis, a strategy that is strongly supported by Britain.
Widodo said he hoped Britain would remain part of the bloc.
Just as the United States has sought to shift its focus to Asia, the EU is also trying for a trade deal with Japan and is in talks to deepen investment ties with China, potentially a precursor to a free-trade accord.