18 April 2017
Federica Mogherini visits China and India this week as Asian leaders still struggle to come to terms with the Trump phenomenon. The EU foreign policy chief will be concentrating on measures to improve EU-China and EU-India relations but her interlocutors, and others in the region, will be focused more on Trump’s tweets, especially as tension is mounting between the US and North Korea.
Based on her own good ties to senior officials in Washington, Mogherini should be able to reassure Asian leaders that Trump’s rhetoric is one thing – his actual policy another. In the past week Trump has flip-flopped on major foreign policy issues including the relevance of NATO and how to handle China. It is no longer a currency manipulator but a valued partner in helping to tackle the DPRK nuclear issue.
Before and after his inauguration, President Trump had numerous phone calls and meetings with leaders and business people from the Asia Pacific region. During the campaign he worried many Asian leaders with his threats to leave TPP, raise tariffs on Chinese exports and make Japan and South Korea be responsible for their own defence. He also called into question the long-standing ‘One China’ policy by making an early phone call to Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen. Business has also been rattled given the high uncertainty surrounding possible Trump policies in the trade and financial fields. More recently there are signs of a more moderate approach.
7 April 2017
Sir, You report (April 3) that President Donald Trump “is prepared to tackle North Korea alone” but it should be painfully clear to everyone that there is no military solution to the problem of Kim Jong Un’s nuclear weapons. There is no certainty that the US knows the whereabouts of all North Korea’s launch sites, and any attack would lead to a devastating retaliatory strike on Seoul — a metropolis of 10m just 60km from South Korea’s border with the North.
28 March 2017
On 26 March Carrie Lam (59) was elected the new chief executive of Hong Kong. A former senior civil servant Lam was chosen by a 1200 strong electoral committee which includes 70 members of the territory's legislature, the Legislative Council - half of whom are directly elected. However, most of the Election Committee is chosen by business, professional or special interest groups.
14 March 2017
EU Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmström and her counterparts from ASEAN agreed last week to take new steps towards resuming free trade talks between the two regions. Speaking after the annual EU-ASEAN ministerial consultations held in Manila, Malmström said: ‘2017 marks the 40th anniversary of fruitful cooperation between the EU and ASEAN. There is still much to be done to unlock the full potential of the relationship but 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. This is a significant and timely initiative, and it shows that the EU and ASEAN are committed to take the lead together on regional and global trade.”
Senior officials will now start working out the parameters of the negotiations for a future ASEAN-EU region-to-region agreement. The participants also agreed to organize expert meetings in new areas of cooperation such as public procurement, e-commerce, and simplifying trade for small and medium-sized enterprises. Participants agreed to have their officials explore the idea of a multilateral court for investment that can serve as a single global judicial instance for resolving investment-related disputes.
On the sidelines, Commissioner Malmström also met bilaterally with trade and economic Ministers from several ASEAN countries, including Cambodia, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines and Vietnam.
12 March 2017
Park Geun-hye has become the first democratically elected South Korean president to be forced from office, after the country’s constitutional court upheld a parliamentary vote to impeach her over a corruption and cronyism scandal that could see her face criminal charges. She will immediately forfeit the executive immunity she enjoyed as president, meaning prosecutors can summon, question and possibly arrest her. There is now likely to be a turbulent period while a new President is elected. There are unlikely to be any new foreign policy initiatives for some time.
The Constitutional Court formally removed Park from office on 10 March, upholding an impeachment motion filed by politicians in December amid suspicions that she colluded with a confidante (Ms Choi Soon-sil) to extort money and favours from companies and allowed the friend to secretly manipulate state affairs.
The ruling ended a power struggle that had consumed the nation for months and marked a stunning downfall for Park, who convincingly defeated her liberal opponent in 2012 with overwhelming support from older South Koreans, who remembered her father, a former South Korean leader, as a hero.
The court said it could not find conclusive evidence for most of these charges. But it was able to rule that Ms Park had divulged state secrets to Choi Soon-sil, a close friend who amassed a personal fortune of $20m. Park also colluded to help her extort funds from conglomerates and profit from two cultural organisations that Ms Choi controlled.
9 March 2017
The annual report of Amnesty International released on 22 February paints a depressing picture of the human rights situation in Asia which it claims has worsened during 2016-17. It pointed out that young people were using social media to expose injustice but too often governments displayed ‘an appalling disregard for freedom, justice and dignity’.
In East Asia, the report stated that governmental transparency diminished and the perception of a growing gap between governments and their citizens increased. This was compounded by entrenched repression in countries such as China and North Korea. A pattern of deepening intolerance towards criticism and open debate unfolded in South Asia, with bloggers murdered in Bangladesh, media workers assailed in Pakistan and space for civil society in countries such as India shrinking. In Southeast Asia, key rights – freedoms of thought, conscience, religion, opinion, expression, association and assembly – came under extensive assault, with crackdowns by Thailand’s military regime and attempts to mute political voices in Malaysia.
As the space for civil society shrank in many countries, discrimination – particularly against racial and ethnic minorities, and women and girls – expanded in a range of countries and contexts. In many states torture and other ill-treatment was among the tools used to target human rights defenders, marginalized groups and others. Such violations were often sustained by a failure to ensure accountability for torturers and other perpetrators of human rights violations. Impunity was pernicious, frequently chronic, and common to many states.
15 February 2017
By confirming that the US would follow the ‘One China’ policy and simultaneously reassuring PM Abe that the US-Japan alliance would remain ‘the cornerstone of security in Asia’, Trump has essentially confirmed the status quo in Asia.
There had been much speculation after Trump, as President-elect, received a phone call from President Tsai of Taiwan that he might use the “One China’ policy as a bargaining chip. But his top advisers convinced him this was a bad idea and in a phone call with President Xi he reiterated the long-standing China policy. In an exchange of letters Xi and Trump also shared wishes to continue a close and productive relationship.
These moves will be welcomed by most countries in Asia that were worried about some of the statements during Trump’s campaign when he called on Japan and S Korea to do more for their own defence and even said they might develop their own nuclear weapons.
The recent visit of Pentagon chief, General Mattis, to S Korea and Japan was also a sign of reassurance that Washington did not intend to change course in East Asia. Secretary of State Tillerson also rowed back from his tough remarks during his Senate confirmation hearing on the South China Sea. He now considers that there need be no increased military action beyond existing freedom of navigation operations.
6 February 2017
Over the past two years the EU-Asia Centre and the EPC have managed a series of research projects aimed at increasing mutual understanding between India and the EU, promoting contacts between EU and Indian think tanks and developing new ideas on how the EU-India strategic partnership should evolve in the future.
It was agreed to focus the research projects in the following areas:
· Global Governance;
· International Security;
· Promoting Sustainability.
18 January 2017
When President Xi Jinping addresses the world's business and financial elites on Tuesday, he will have an opportunity to demonstrate China's commitment to globalization.
In light of the worrying, uncertain and often contradictory messages emanating from Trump Towers in recent weeks, political and business leaders attending Davos will ask each other just what US president-elect Donald Trump means for global political, economic, security and trade policies.
17 October 2016
The ASEAN-EU ministerial meeting in Bangkok on 13-14 October was a quiet success although overshadowed by the death of the King of Thailand. The two sides reinforced their determination to deepen relations, had good discussions on common security challenges, and agreed to launch talks on a new Comprehensive Air Transport Agreement aimed at increasing flights between the two regions.
Ten EU foreign ministers made the journey to Bangkok with five on the ASEAN side. As Federica Mogherini was ill the EU delegation was led by Slovak Foreign Minister Miroslav Lajcak who reminded the meeting that the EU was the largest investor in the region and would continue pursuing its aim of bilateral FTAs with a view to a region to region FTA at a later date. He also promised that the EU would continue to support regional development including the Lower Mekong delta project.