German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle advocated free trade deals with south-east Asia on Tuesday, calling the region a ''growth engine'' during a meeting with a regional official. Because so many south-east Asian countries are key to global economic growth, Westerwelle, cited by German press agency (dpa), said the European Union should speed up trade deals with the region. His comments came during a visit by Surin Pitsuwan, secretary general of the Association of South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN). The EU has been in direct negotiations with ASEAN about a trade deal. But that has so far been unsuccessful, so the bloc is now negotiating with individual nations. Nevertheless, Westerwelle said a comprehensive deal remained ''a long-term goal.''