EU capitalizing on free-trade interest amid gloom over Trump policies
By Martin Petty and Neil Jerome Morales
MANILA (Reuters) - The European Union is seeing increased impetus around the world to move forward with Free Trade Agreements (FTA) with the bloc, which will make the most of uncertainty over the outlook for U.S. trade policy, the EU's trade envoy said on Friday.
The EU was close to finishing or implementing FTAs with Japan, Vietnam and Singapore and was readying to start talks with Australia, New Zealand and Chile - all members of a U.S-inspired Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) devastated by Donald Trump's decision to pull Washington out of the deal on day three of his presidency.
"Today, there is political opportunity to say that those of us who believe in open markets and good trade, we are willing to do trade agreements," EU Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom told Reuters in an interview.
"Whether that (TPP) is dead, or partially dead, it is not for me to judge. But we have seen an increase of willingness to step up trade agreements."
One project thrust back on the table is an FTA between the EU and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) that was abandoned in 2009 due to disparities in wealth and standards between its 10 markets.
Malmstrom also said it should not be assumed an EU-U.S. trade deal had collapsed, despite indications the Trump administration would pursue a protectionist agenda.
EU and U.S. officials were negotiating for more than three years on a Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) and that could be easily resumed, she said, and should not be impacted by Britain's looming departure from the EU.