As the global economy continues to evolve, the trade relationship between Southeast Asia and the European Union (EU) has become increasingly important. According to data from the European Commission, in 2020, the EU imported goods worth €85 billion from Southeast Asia, making it the EU’s third-largest trading partner in the region after China and Japan.
One of the key drivers of this trade relationship is the export of manufactured goods from Southeast Asia to the EU. These exports include a wide range of products, such as electronic devices, textiles, and automotive parts. In 2020, electronic devices alone accounted for €20 billion of Southeast Asian exports to the EU, representing 23% of total exports from Southeast Asia to the EU. Textiles and clothing accounted for €9 billion, and automotive parts for €6 billion.
However, as the trade relationship between the two regions continues to grow, it is vital to consider the potential supply chain risks in Southeast Asia, particularly concerning human rights and environmental protection. Studies have shown that many companies operating in the region, including Southeast Asian producers and EU companies, may be involved in labour abuses or environmental degradation.
For example, a report from Amnesty International in 2020 found that workers in the electronics industry in Southeast Asia were often subjected to poor working conditions and low wages. This claim is supported by a study from the International Labor Organization (ILO), which estimates that 85% of workers in the electronics industry in Southeast Asia are paid less than a living wage. Additionally, environmental degradation caused by industrial activities in the region, such as deforestation and pollution, has also been a significant concern. A study by the World Bank found that Southeast Asia is one of the most vulnerable regions to the impacts of climate change, which may include rising sea levels, more frequent extreme weather events, and water stress.
To address these issues, Southeast Asian governments, producers, and EU companies must take steps to improve working conditions and protect the environment in the region. These measures include implementing regulations and monitoring systems and investing in sustainable technologies and practices.
In conclusion, the trade relationship between Southeast Asia and the EU is vital for both regions, with exports from Southeast Asia to the EU playing a significant role. However, it is crucial to consider the potential supply chain risks in Southeast Asia, such as labour abuses and environmental degradation. All actors in the supply chain should be accountable for these and take steps to address them to ensure sustainable and responsible trade between the two regions.
- European Commission. (2021). South-East Asia – Trade – European Commission. Retrieved from https://ec.europa.eu/trade/policy/countries-and-regions/countries/southeast-asia/
- Amnesty International. (2020). Tech companies must act to end abuse in supply chains. Retrieved from https://www.amnesty.org/en/latest/news/2020/07/tech-companies-must-act-to-end-abuse-in-supply-chains/
- International Labor Organization. (n.d.). Living wage, decent work and collective bargaining in global supply chains. Retrieved from https://www.ilo.org/global/topics/fair-recruitment/WCMS_732107/lang–en/index.htm
- World Bank. (2019). Southeast Asia is one of the most vulnerable regions to the impacts of climate change. Retrieved from https://www.worldbank.org