The EU`s global Europe strategy in 2016 indicated closer economic and security relations with the Asia-Pacific region, and when the bloc`s trade agreement with Vietnam was announced in June, EU Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom hailed the agreement as an „important milestone“ that could serve as a catalyst for agreements with other ASEAN countries. Negotiations are also under way with Myanmar (Burma) for an investment protection agreement. In the insurance sector, for example, Singapore`s accreditation requirements restrict access to foreign capital. Similar restrictions also apply to the banking sector, although the free trade agreement with the EU indicates that EU companies are finally being offered a level playing field for offshore and wholesale banks that were part of Singapore`s trade agreement with the US. Brexit will destabilize two dimensions of this equation. First, it will have an impact on the way the EU negotiates its bilateral free trade agreements with ASEAN Member States, many of which are still ongoing. Secondly, it will look at how the UK, which will be outside the EU`s free trade agreements after Brexit, will be forced to seek its own free trade agreements with ASEAN countries, although no formal negotiations can be initiated until it officially leaves the EU. Trade between the EU and Thailand was estimated at just $13.4 billion in the first four months of this year, up from $15.1 billion the previous year. Some Thai economists attribute this to the fact that investors are relocating their capital to Vietnam pending the free trade agreement that is expected to come into force this year. Analysts believe that the EU has reason to insist that free trade agreements be concluded because they have proven effective in promoting trade, as shown by the trade agreement between Europe and South Korea. According to figures published by the European Commission, EU exports to South Korea have increased by 55% in the five years since the EU-South Korea free trade agreement came into force in 2011.

However, even if talks were to begin soon, it would take years for a free trade agreement to be negotiated. The EU-Singapore agreement lasted nine years, while the agreement with Vietnam lasted seven years.