Mr. Purugganan’s letter to the Editor was published by the Jakarta Post; this was in response to the article on the EU-Asean FTA written by Mr. Werner Hoyer, Minister of State of the German Federal Foreign Office. The original title of the letter was “EU’s Ambitious Agenda in Asean.”

The real reason why the EU-ASEAN FTA negotiations were put on pause is that the level of ambition that ASEAN was ready to commit to the EU was not on par with what the EU had in mind when it launched the talks with ASEAN in 2007.

We must recall that the negotiations with ASEAN are part of the EU’s so-called New Partnerships in Asia — simultaneous negotiations for comprehensive ambitions and WTO-plus FTAs with Korea, India and ASEAN.

The primary reason why the EU-ASEAN talks were put on hold and why the EU has since pursued bilateral talks with select ASEAN member states is ambition. Notwithstanding the references to the need to narrow the development gap in ASEAN, the EU is pursuing the bilateral track to serve the EU’s needs and those of EU-based corporations.

The EU-Singapore FTA talks will most likely produce a comprehensive and highly ambitious trade agreement; one that may serve the interests of the EU and a rich country like Singapore.

But if the EU-Singapore FTA becomes a template for the rest of ASEAN, then we fear that the poorer countries within ASEAN and the poor within these countries would have to face the consequences of a yet another unjust economic agreement that supports the corporate interests but does very little for addressing the poverty and inequality that persists in the region.

Joseph Purugganan