ASEAN: “Focussing exclusively on trade does not reflect the opportunities for cooperation” 

Reinhard Bütikofer 

The EU's collaboration with its eastern counterpart the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) has traditionally focussed on promoting trade between the two regions. However, Reinhard Bütikofer believes there are many benefits to be had by working together on other issues as well, such as human rights and the environment. MEPs will vote on his report on Wednesday 15 January. We talked to the German Green MEP about why the relationship needs to be broadened.

Mr Bütikofer believes that the time has come to strengthen collaboration in new areas: "There is much more room for common concerns between the EU and ASEAN countries then we traditionally have been aware of. Somehow the EU-ASEAN relationship has been focussing almost exclusively on trade and investment and it's not reflecting the opportunities for cooperation."

The MEP said the EU should stimulate organisations such as ASEAN that promote multilateralism, which could help to defuse conflicts in Asia. "Some of the ASEAN countries are involved with disputes around the South China sea, for instance," he said. "Clearly it would be in the European interest to strengthen a grouping of countries that advocated solving such issues according to the international law of the sea and not just by force."

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