European Union and ASEAN to form strategic partnership - Germany


German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas speaks during a virtual news conference where he informed about a virtual meeting of EU-ASEAN Foreign Ministers and an upcoming NATO Foreign Ministers meeting, at the Federal Foreign Office in Berlin, Germany, December 1, 2020. Clemens Bilan/Pool via REUTERS

BERLIN (Reuters) - The European Union and the ASEAN group of southeast Asian countries have agreed to upgrade their relationship to a strategic partnership, current EU president Germany said on Tuesday.

"As close economic partners, we will stand up for safe and open trade routes and a free and fair trade," German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said after a virtual meeting with his counterparts from the EU and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).

"Together, we represent more than a billion people and almost 25 per cent of global economic power. Together, we have a strong voice in this world," said Maas, who gave no specific details on what the strategic partnership would entail.

ASEAN groups Brunei, Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, Thailand, Myanmar, Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia and the Philippines.

The EU has 27 member states.

Two weeks ago, the 10 ASEAN nations joined China, Japan, South Korea, Australia and New Zealand to form the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) - the world's largest free trade bloc, accounting for nearly a third of the global population and about 30 per cent of global GDP.

(Reporting by Sabine Siebold; Editing by Gareth Jones)

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