ASEAN eyes free trade agreements with Russia, Canada, EU

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, November 14) — The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) is pushing to sign free trade agreements (FTAs) with Russia, Canada, and the European Union.

An ASEAN-Russia FTA is already “being explored,"according to a statement of Trade Secretary Ramon Lopez, read on the sidelines of the 31st ASEAN Summit and Related Summits on Tuesday.

He said information-sharing and confidence-building measure are ongoing between the two parties.

However, ASEAN has no Trade and Investment Framework Agreement with Russia, a requirement for countries working towards an FTA.

An FTA would reduce trade barriers between Russia and ASEAN’s 10 member states, including the Philippines.

Russia was the Philippines’ 31st trading partner in 2015. Total trade between ASEAN and Russia decreased by 13 percent to US$11.6 million in 2016 from $13.4 million the previous year.

Vietnam is the only ASEAN member with an FTA with Russia.

Despite the strained relations between the Philippines and the European Union, Lopez noted that ASEAN under President Rodrigo Duterte’s chairmanship moved to resume negotiations for a regional FTA with the European Union. Negotiations reached an impasse in 2009.

The EU is one of ASEAN’s top 10 trading partners.

Lopez said ASEAN and Canada are also discussing a possible FTA.

ASEAN signed an FTA and a related investment agreement with Hong Kong on Sunday.

Read more: ASEAN, Hong Kong sign free trade, investment agreements

Lopez said the country’s hosting of ASEAN has further intensified the resolve to enhance trade relations with member states and dialogue partners such as China, Japan, Korea, Australia, New Zealand, and India.