FTA between Asia and Europe would deepen ties: Indranee

SINGAPORE - Asia and Europe would benefit from even deeper levels of connectivity, for instance through a region-to-region free trade agreement (FTA), said Senior Minister of State for Finance and Law Indranee Rajah on Friday (June 10).

Ms Indranee was speaking at the 12th Asia-Europe Finance Ministers' Meeting, held in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia.

She noted that Asia and Europe have reaped significant benefits from trade, transport and financial connectivity between the two regions.

Initiatives such as the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), which is currently being negotiated, will help to deepen linkages.

Transport connectivity is also essential - with a sizeable combined market of 1.1 billion people in Europe and Asean, the benefits of an Asean-EU Comprehensive Air Transport Agreement are substantial, Ms Indranee noted.

She also said more can be done to boost connectivity between the two regions.

China's "One Belt, One Road" initiative - which aims to establish connectivity and cooperation across Euroasia - is a good example, she noted.

A region-to-region FTA would also allow Asia and Europe to be better integrated and encourage stronger business linkages.

Ms Indranee also urged both regions to strengthen collaboration on digital connectivity, which has been a "game changer" but still harbours significant untapped potential.

Over four billion people remain digitally disconnected, and six billion lack access to reliable Internet connection that is critical for basic e-commerce, she noted.

"(Digital connectivity) will chart the next wave of economic growth and development, and will greatly expand markets for our businesses."