The Association of Southeast Asian Nations and the European Union have adopted the ASEAN-EU Plan of Action (2018-2022), which replaces the Bandar Seri Begawan Plan of Action (2013-2017) and aims to continue strengthening the ASEAN-EU enhanced partnership.
Under the new plan, the ASEAN and EU will jointly pursue cooperative initiatives in several areas including economy, transport, connectivity, food, agriculture, fisheries, energy, politics and security, research and innovation, and science and technology, according to a joint release from the two parties.
Among actions proposed to strengthen economic cooperation is to “intensify work towards the timely resumption of the ASEAN-EU Free Trade Agreement (FTA) negotiations, noting the status of bilateral FTAs between several ASEAN Member States and the EU.”
Aside from facilitating a region-to-region FTA, the ASEAN-EU Plan of Action also looks at fast-tracking the ASEAN Customs Transit System to improve customs clearance and transit in in the region.
Another objective is to “support effective implementation of the ASEAN Economic Community Blueprint 2025 at regional and national levels including in the area of trade facilitation.”
The plan also proposes to strengthen the role of the private sector and public-private partnership in expanding and facilitating trade and investment, as well as looks into ways to strengthen micro, small and medium enterprises in the ASEAN.
The two regional groupings likewise plan to strengthen cooperation in transportation by collaborating further to conclude and implement the ASEAN-EU Comprehensive Air Transport Agreement, the first ever region-to-region agreement, with a view to enhancing air connectivity between ASEAN and the EU.
Moreover, they intend to promote jointly the development of the ASEAN Single Aviation Market, including the enhancement of aviation safety, security, and air traffic management consistent with the ICAO’s standards and recommended practices.
As for connectivity, cooperation will take the form of continued policy dialogue on how to enhance inter-regional connectivity between ASEAN and the EU, including through the ASEAN Coordinating Committee on Connectivity and relevant EU counterparts.
The plan of action also calls for promoting the implementation of the Master Plan on ASEAN Connectivity 2025, particularly in the areas of sustainable infrastructure, digital innovation, seamless logistics, regulatory excellence, and people mobility.
Further, the two parties affirm the need to explore the exchange of lessons learned and best practices from the EU on the development of sub-regional and trans-regional connectivity initiatives, including the Mekong sub-region, Brunei-Indonesia-Malaysia-Philippines-East ASEAN Growth Area, and Indonesia-Malaysia-Thailand Growth Triangle.
Meanwhile, in the sectors of food, agriculture, fisheries, aquaculture, and forestry, the new plan of action seeks to enhance cooperation in sanitary and phytosanitary matters, including exchange of best practices in inspections and the implementation of the precautionary principle.
Other points of agreement in these sectors include plans to strengthen fisheries cooperation, such as supporting efforts to combat illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing; promoting sustainable fisheries management and aquaculture development; and exploring cooperation for the possible development of an ASEAN Common Fisheries Policy.
At the same time, the plan of action covers addressing regional and global environmental challenges and promoting sustainable development. Fields of cooperation pertain to supporting the implementation of multilateral environmental agreements through technical assistance and capacity building.
The ASEAN and EU are also focusing on bolstering cooperation to address the challenges posed by climate change through supporting the ASEAN Program on Sustainable Management of Peatland Ecosystems, and the Paris Agreement adopted under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.
According to the joint statement, “the implementation of the present Plan of Action is a shared responsibility of ASEAN and the EU. It will be jointly taken forward by ASEAN and the EU.”