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EU-Korea leaders’ summit

30 June 2020

On 30 June the President of the European Council, Charles Michel, and the President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen held a video conference with President Moon Jae-in of Korea.

As 2020 marks the 10th anniversary of the EU-Republic of Korea strategic partnership, and this leaders meeting was partly to mark the occasion. It is hoped that a live summit in Seoul will take place as soon as circumstances allow. Both sides are keen to deepen their overall cooperation.

There was considerable agreement on all major issues as both partners are strongly committed to multilateralism and a rules-based approach to resolving global issues.

Tackling the Covid-19 pandemic was a central theme of the meeting. The leaders discussed deepening cooperation on research and development of vaccines and medicines and agreed that any COVID-19 vaccine should be a global common good. Both sides reiterated their support for the WHO and supported the goal of an impartial, independent and comprehensive evaluation of lessons learned from the pandemic. There was agreement to assist developing countries in facing the consequences of the pandemic, by means including debt relief.

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EU Ursula

Virtual EU-China Summit

22 June 2020

The first summit on 22 June between the new EU leadership team of Ursula von der Leyen and Charles Michel with China’s President Xi Jinping and Premier Li Keqiang was a virtual affair because of the Covid-19 pandemic. There was no joint statement and no joint press conference.

Instead the EU issues a lengthy statement recounting its side of events. The EU side accepted that EU –China relations ‘were crucial in many areas’ but at the same time, ‘we have to recognise that we do not share the same values, political systems, or approach to multilateralism.’ For our relations to develop further, ‘they must become more rules-based and reciprocal, in order to achieve a real level playing-field.’

Foe the EU a key indicator will be progress on the long-running negotiations on an investment agreement. Whether the investment agreement will now be finalised this year is an open question. The pandemic has not helped the negotiating process although some progress has been made by video conference, including a deal on geographical indications.

But if China does not accept the principle of reciprocity, end industrial subsidies and the practice of enforced technology transfer then the barriers would go up. The Commission had already shown it means business by presenting new proposals to tackle unfair subsidies and block predatory take-overs of companies by third countries.

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EU Japan VTC

EU-Japan Virtual Summit

26 May 2020

Shinzo Abe, Prime Minister of Japan, Charles Michel, President of the European Council, and Ursula von der Leyen, President of the European Commission, held a Leaders' meeting today via a video conference. As shared in the joint press release and in the following video press conference by Mr Michel, the parties reaffirmed their commitment to work together to tackle global challenges.

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Igor Driesman

Interview with Igor Driesmans, EU ambassador to ASEAN

14 May 2020

EUAC: How has ASEAN coped with Covid-19? Are the ten members cooperating on travel bans, economic recovery, easing lockdowns, etc?

ID: I think it is important to emphasize just how unprecedented the challenge of COVID-19 has been for all countries and regions of the world. ASEAN, like the rest of us, has found itself in unchartered waters, and I believe they have done well to navigate their way through. The ASEAN Leaders held a successful COVID-19 Special Summit in April, which took place by videoconference – a first. The summit showed that ASEAN was ready to do more collectively, particularly in the areas of public health, essential medical supplies and social protection. Regarding post-pandemic action, the ASEAN Economic Ministers are due to meet virtually in June and are expected to discuss ways to support regional supply chains and coordinated economic recovery plans.

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Chapuis

EU-China ‘wolves v sheep’ media dispute

8 May 2020

The decision to allow the publication of an op-ed in China Daily censored under Chinese pressure has led to sharp criticism of the EEAS for the second time in two weeks. The article, co-authored by the EU ambassador to China and the 27 member state ambassadors, painted a relatively rosy picture of cooperation to mark the 45th anniversary of the EU-China relations.

But the Chinese had removed the reference to the outbreak of the coronavirus “starting in China, and its subsequent spread to the rest of the world,” something which Beijing has either disputed or played down in recent weeks as the ‘battle of the narratives’ started.

The news of the EU ambassador, Nicolas Chapuis, acquiesing to Chinese demands resulted in immediate calls for his dismissal. Reinhard Bütikofer, the chair of the EU Parliament Delegation to China, called for his resignation for ‘kowtowing’ to the Chinese government. Norbert Roettgen, the chair of the German parliament’s foreign affairs committee, also tweeted his shock that the EU not only adopted the Chinese narrative but also accepted the censorship.

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China-US-EU

Outbreak to impact EU-US-China ties

18 March 2020

The novel coronavirus outbreak will have a major impact on relations between the European Union, China and the United States, the world's three biggest economic actors responsible for more than 50 percent of global wealth.

Some US politicians have sought to blame China and the EU for failing to tackle the outbreak, thereby showing zero understanding of the need for global cooperation to combat the worst pandemic in decades. Trust in US leadership is certain to take a further tumble after the US administration's erratic handling of the crisis.

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Democracy Trends in Asia

Democratic Trends in Asia

27 February 2020

The Economist Intelligence Unit (EUI) has just published its annual review of worldwide democratic trends. It states that ‘Asian democracies had a tumultuous year in 2019’ with Thailand marking the biggest jump in the rankings and moving from a ‘hybrid regime’ to a ‘flawed democracy.

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EU-Vietnam FTA

EU-Vietnam FTA approved by EP

13 February 2020

On 11 February the European Parliament approved the EU-Vietnam trade and investment agreements by large majorities which will allow the FTA to enter into force later this year. Following the FTA with Singapore, the deal with Vietnam will eliminate virtually all tariffs on goods and provides guarantees on sustainable development, labour rights, environmental protection and the Paris climate accords.

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EU-Asia relations set to deepen despite Brexit

EU-Asia relations set to deepen despite Brexit

4 February 2020

Britain’s departure from the EU is undoubtedly a blow to the bloc’s foreign and security policy ambitions. Ursula von der Leyen, the new president of the European Commission, has called for Europe to play a more “geopolitical role” but this will be more difficult with the loss of a nuclear power and one of the two permanent seats on the United Nations Security Council. It could potentially lead to competition between the 440 million EU and the 60 million UK in terms of seeking Asia’s attention. But Brexit will not derail the EU’s plans to deepen ties with Asia this year. An array of summits is planned with Asian partners as both sides seek to preserve a rules-based international system under threat from U.S. President Donald Trump.

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Leaders at ASEM Meeting in Madrid

Successful ASEM in Madrid

17 December 2019

The ASEM foreign ministers meeting in Madrid was a useful opportunity to cement European and Asian support for multilateralism; and for Josep Borrell to meet his Asian interlocutors. The ministerial paved the way for the ASEM summit on 16-17 November 2020 in Cambodia.

Ministers engaged in a lively debate during their retreat session touching on the above and other sensitive issues such as Xinjiang and Hong Kong, Kashmir, Syria and the Donbas.

The new High Representative used the opportunity of the ASEM foreign ministers meeting in Madrid this week to hold bilateral talks with a number of Asian colleagues. He judged the ASEM to have been a success and hoped that in future there could be more focus on fewer subjects with the possibility of joint actions.

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