EU sees talks with ASEAN, India, SKorea on free-trade pacts in months
(BRUSSELS) - The European Commission expects to open talks with ASEAN, India and South Korea on new free-trade pacts after winning members' backing to launch negotiations, the EU's executive arm said Monday.
European Union foreign ministers meeting in Luxembourg formally gave the Commission mandates to negotiate the new free-trade agreements on behalf of the EU's 27 members.
Welcoming the move, the Commission said that the agreements could add more than 40 billion euros (54 billion dollars) to EU exports annually through new opportunities.
"Combined with a successful conclusion to the Doha round (of WTO talks), these agreements will open new markets to EU businesses and give a valuable boost to global trade," said EU trade chief Peter Mandelson.
With the 2001 launch of WTO trade liberalization negotiations in the Qatari capital Doha, the EU chose to focus on a multilateral approach to trade at the expense of efforts to strike bilateral deals.
But since the Doha talks ground to a halt in July in disputes over farm trade, Brussels has tried to give a new push to bilateral deals, a strategy already being pursued by the United States and Japan.