Stitched Together: ASEAN-EU Relations

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Citing human rights concerns, the EU is deciding whether to revoke duty-free market access for Cambodia’s exports, even as it tries to boost trade and defense ties with Southeast Asia.

With no end in sight to the so-called trade war raging between the US and China, the European Union (EU) sees a chance to act as the guardian of free trade and hold its own against the two giants. But as the bloc gets increasingly bogged down in spats with individual Southeast Asian countries, prospects for a wider regional trade relationship look increasingly precarious.

With Cambodia’s eligibility for preferential market access to the EU coming under question and with the likelihood growing that Myanmar could be put under similar scrutiny, the EU appears to be hedging against any consequent damage to its relations with Southeast Asia by seeking free trade agreements and closer defense ties with some of the region’s countries.

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