Trade talks take time
Few MPs go as far as the one who recently said that trade talks between the UK and the EU could be completed in an afternoon, but there is clearly a belief in some parts of the British Parliament that such negotiations should take months rather than years.
Unfortunately, any examination of how actual trade deals have been completed in recent years would seem to suggest that the latter is almost exclusively the case.
The latest example concerns the ongoing attempt by the European Commission to set-up talks with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).
Negotiations originally started 10 years ago, in 2007, but difficulties with dealing with a body comprising 10 nations at very different stages in their development led the Commission to concentrate its attention on bilateral deals with the more willing ASEAN members.
So far it has concluded, but not yet ratified, bilateral trade agreements with Singapore and Vietnam, and is pursuing negotiations with Indonesia, the Philippines and also, as regards investment protection, with Myanmar.
At a recent meeting, however, trade leaders from the EU and ASEAN agreed to look at resuming free trade talks between the two regions.
Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmström said: “There is still much to be done to unlock the full potential of the EU-ASEAN relationship, and the quickly changing international environment now makes us turn our eyes even more towards Asia. I am glad to see that both sides are now ready to seize the momentum and start preparations towards re-launching these negotiations.”
It could be next year before anything substantive emerges, however, these things take time.