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ASEAN Secretary General calls for closer ties with EU

21 October 2013

Speaking at a conference organised by the Belgian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the EU-Asia Centre on 15 October, Le Luong Minh, ASEAN Secretary General, said that the EU was a long-standing and valued partner. It was important to align future EU-ASEAN cooperation to take into account new developments, requirements and needs of the post-2015 ASEAN Community. There was much the two bodies could do together to deepen their relations, from trade and investment to closer cooperation in the multilateral institutions.

Belgian Foreign Minister Didier Reynders agreed and stressed that the EU and ASEAN were ‘natural partners that share the same DNA.’ The EU supported ASEAN’s integration and recognised its centrality in an evolving Asian regional architecture. The EU wanted to see ‘a strong, united and self-confident ASEAN which we can address in a block-to-block dialogue.’

The conference report, programme, and the speeches of Didier Reynders, Le Luong Minh and David O\'Sullivan are now available.

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Obama's Absence

Obama’s Absence Weakens US in Asia

9 October 2013

President Obama’s decision to stay at home and miss two important meetings in Asia - the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Leaders Meeting and the East Asia Summit (EAS) has sparked much debate about US decline in the region. Despite Secretary of State, John Kerry’s protestations to the contrary, most commentators have viewed this week’s events as enhancing China’s standing in the region at the expense of the US.

There were few substantial outcomes at the APEC meeting. Leaders issued a statement calling for a last-ditch attempt to save the Doha Round while the members of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) stated that they were on track to complete the negotiations by the end of the year. This is very optimistic as many difficult chapters have not been agreed and there is still the possibility of South Korea joining the talks. There must also be a question mark as to whether President Obama could get any trade deal through the present US Congress.

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Obama Asia

Obama cancels Asia visit

4 October 2013

US President Obama’s planned visit Indonesia, Brunei, Malaysia and the Philippines from October 6-12 has been cancelled. According to a statement by the White House the cancellation was ‘another consequence of the House Republicans forcing a shutdown of the government’.

Secretary of State John Kerry will attend the APEC meeting and the East Asia Summit instead. President Obama’s planned visits to Malaysia and the Philippines were already postponed on Wednesday this week due to the government shutdown.

After the failure to agree a new budget, the US government began earlier this week to close non-essential operations. This Friday, the two houses of Congress do not appear closer to an agreement.

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Singh Obama

Indian PM Manmohan Singh Visits the US

25 September 2013

During his four day visit to the US, PM Singh will discuss with President Obama how to deepen their global strategic partnership.

So far the partnership has not lived up to expectations. There have been mounting problems over the civilian nuclear deal between the two countries and this will be a top theme when the two leaders meet. Other issues on the agenda include boosting defence and trade relations and the situation in Afghanistan after the withdrawal of NATO forces next year. India has spent $2bn in aid to Afghanistan and fears the return of Taliban once the US leaves.

The Indian PM is also likely to raise concerns over proposed changes in US immigration laws which India believes will affect its skilled info-tech professionals.

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9th EU-China Think Tank RT

9th EU-China Think Tank Roundtable

17 September 2013

The 9th China-EU Think Tank Roundtable was held in Chengdu, China, on 16-17 September. It was jointly organized by the China Institute of International Studies (CIIS), Sichuan University, the European Policy Centre (EPC), the EU-Asia Centre, and Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung Beijing.

There were 9 speakers on both sides representing think tanks and academia. On the Chinese side, the group included Hu Zhaoming, Deputy Director-General from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

In the first session, speakers shared their views on the global situation and the position of China and the EU within. Hu Zhaoming stated that the EU and Western countries had not yet adapted to the new reality of the changed power structure in international relations. Hu expressed concern that the EU was trying to bandwagon the US pivot to Asia and that the Trans-Pacific Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) with the US was targeted at China. China had the impression that the EU was opposing developing countries’ rise. EU-China relations had suffered due to the solar panel dispute. Trade had also declined last year.. The Chinese were concerned that the EU focused on just a few dissidents rather than the majority of people. But despite these problems, the only choice for the EU and China was to cooperate more and for the EU to increase understanding of China.

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Maldives Presidential Elections

Runoff in Maldives Presidential Election

4 September 2013

Presidential elections took place on the Maldives on 7 September. The country’s first democratically elected president, Mohamed Nasheed, received 45% percent of votes according to election results announced on 8 September. As Nasheed has not won an outright majority, a run-off will be held by 28 September. His competitor, Abdulla Yameen, won 25% of the votes cast. Yameen is the half-brother of former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom who was the Maldives’ autocratic leader for 30 years.

The Maldives’ first democratic elections were held in 2008 after decades of autocracy. Nasheed won the elections, but resigned in February 2012 after strong opposition by the public, army, and police to the arrest of a senior judge. Nasheed later said he had been forced to resign at gunpoint by police and army officers.

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Rudd Abbott

Abbot Wins in Australia

2 September 2013

Tony Abbot is the new prime minister of Australia after defeating Kevin Rudd\'s Labour Party in the 7 September general election. Abbot\'s Liberal-National coalition won 88 seats compared to 57 for the Labour Party. The situation in the upper house (Senate) is less clear cut with the new government unlikely to hold a majority of seats.  Most analysts consider that the Labour Party, beset with internal rivalries, lost the election rather than the conservatives winning it. The fact that Labour MPs ousted their sitting PM twice in three years did not find favour with the voters. Rudd was brought back because he was allegedly more popular than Gillard but the gamble failed. He has now announed that he will resign as party leader.

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Manufacturing Asia


21 August 2013

In its latest report Key Indicators for Asia and the Pacific 2013 the Asian Development Bank (ADB) states that industrialization must be an essential part of the growth formula if Asian countries want to prosper and avoid the middle income trap. The report emphasises that manufacturing is essential to a high productivity service sector, technological innovation, and modernizing agriculture.

“Historically, no economy has reached high income status without reaching at least 18% share of manufacturing in output and employment for a sustained period,” said Changyong Rhee, ADB’s Chief Economist.

The report notes that one group of economies - Hong Kong, Japan; South Korea; Singapore; and Taipei - rapidly industrialized to become high income countries, while another group of economies, including China, Malaysia, and Thailand, are transforming more slowly.

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EU-China Deal on Solar Panels

EU-China Deal on Solar Panels

29 July 2013

EU Trade Commissioner Karel De Gucht announced on 27 July that the EU and China had reached ‘an amicable solution’ to the dispute on solar panels. He said that he was satisfied with the offer of a price undertaking submitted by China\'s solar panel exporters and added that the agreement would lead to a new market equilibrium at sustainable prices.

The dispute arose after the Commission imposed temporary anti-dumping levies on the imports of solar panels in response to complaints from European manufacturers that Chinese producers were massively undercutting rivals. China had captured close to 80% of the European market for solar panels over recent years, with exports reaching €20 billion in 2011. The anti-dumping investigation was the biggest in the history of the EU and threatened to spill-over into other areas of EU-China relations.

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Hun Sen

Cambodia Votes – Victory for Hun Sen?

24 July 2013

Cambodia held its fifth general elections on 28 July. According to preliminary election results, incumbent Prime Minister Hun Sen’s Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) won 68 of the parliament’s 123 seats. The oppositional Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) won 55 seats. The opposition’s result is stronger than expected, given that the CNRP was founded only in 2012 as a fusion of the liberal Sam Rainsy Party (SRP) and the Human Rights Party (CNRP).

In 2008, the CPP won 58.1% of the seats. This year’s election would decrease the CPP’s majority in parliament to around 55% and allocate around 45% of seats to the opposition. In 2008’s elections the SRP won only 21.9% of seats. Hun Sen, who has been head of the government since 1984, is eligible to be elected for a fourth term as prime minister.

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