JAKARTA, Indonesia – German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Wednesday (July 11th) said Europe must step up its efforts to establish a free trade pact with booming Southeast Asia.
"I am deeply convinced that Europe has to hurry up in setting up a free trade agreement with this region if it wants to be able to compete," she said during a visit to Jakarta, according to AFP.
As European nations are struggling to climb out of debt, Southeast Asian nations are experiencing strong growth. Indonesia grew 6.5% in 2011 and is forecast to grow at the same pace this year.
On Tuesday, Merkel and Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono pledged to boost trade, which now stands at around $7 billion, and Indonesian officials forecast it to reach $12 billion by 2014.
ASEAN as a whole represents the EU's third-largest trading partner outside Europe, with more than 206 billion euros ($253 billion) of trade in goods and services in 2011, according to the European Commission.
The EU is ASEAN's second-largest trading partner after China, accounting for around 11% of ASEAN trade.