This week Catherine Ashton attended the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) Post-Ministerial Conference (PMC) and the 19th ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF), held in Cambodia.
Speaking at the opening of the PMC, Ashton said: ''there is now a relationship between EU and South East Asia that is mature enough that we can be ambitious and it is time to move forward. My presence here demonstrates EU's commitment to widen the engagement with the countries of this region. We support the centrality in the integration process of the ASEAN and the wider region and for the EU that's a guarantee that these relations will remain open and inclusive. More than anything I want the ASEAN nations to see the EU as a reliable partner''
Ashton she also co-signed the EU-Philippine Partnership and Cooperation Agreement (PCA) as well as the EU accession to the Treaty of Amity and Cooperation (TAC) in South East Asia.
EU-Philippine Partnership and Cooperation Agreement (PCA)
The Partnership and Cooperation Agreement (PCA) signed with the Philippines, is the first agreement between the EU and the Philippines since the 1980 EU cooperation agreement with ASEAN.
This new PCA, which brings on board the EU and all its Member States, allows the two sides to address new challenges in a more coherent and sustainable way by working closely together on issues such as migration and energy. The agreement, built on common values, provides the right tools to cope with these issues by focusing on dialogue and cooperation.
Hailing the agreement, Catherine Ashton said: "this agreement underlines the European Union's commitment to invigorate its relations with Asia, and ASEAN in particular. Because of the many personal linkages which have been established over a very long time we take a particular interest in developments in the Philippines. We are looking forward to the possibility of deepening our trade relations through a Free Trade Agreement.''
The PCA will need to be ratified by EU Member States and submitted to the European Parliament before it formally enters into force.
A similar PCA was concluded with Vietnam in 2010 and signed on 27 June 2012 in Brussels. In November 2009, Indonesia was the first country of ASEAN to sign a new-generation PCA with the EU.
EU acceding to Treaty of Amity and Cooperation in Southeast Asia
The Treaty of Amity and Cooperation (TAC) in South East Asia is a non-aggression and cooperation pact between ASEAN members and their partners, which serves as a key instrument in governing inter-state relations and contributing to peace, security, stability and prosperity in the region.
Catherine Ashton, signing the Instrument of Accession of the European Union to the Treaty of Amity and Cooperation in Southeast Asia (TAC) said: "I am absolutely delighted to have signed the Instrument of accession of the European Union to the TAC today. This is an important step because it commits us to working together in tackling issues that we face in a peaceful way. It also confirms that we will work together to address some of the security and political concerns of the region,"
The treaty was first signed in February 1976 by the leaders of the then-members of ASEAN (Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, Singapore, Philippines). Today, the parties to the TAC are the 10 ASEAN member states, Papua New Guinea, China, India, Japan, Pakistan, South Korea, Russia, New Zealand, Mongolia, Australia, France, East Timor, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, North Korea, the United States, Turkey and Canada. Brazil and the UK are due to become members soon.