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Ashton Attends ARF

Ashton Attends ARF

12 July 2013

Catherine Ashton continued her commitment to Asia by attending the 20th ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF) last week in Brunei. The ARF is an annual gathering of foreign ministers from the region, including China, Japan, Korea plus the US and EU. Having won kudos for her speech at the Shangri-la meeting in Singapore, Ashton was able to use the ARF to continue her formal and informal contacts with key players including US Secretary of State, John Kerry, China’s foreign minister, Wang Yi, and Vietnam’s foreign minister, Pham Binh Minh.

Although mainly a ‘talk-shop’ the very fact that ministers meet regularly in the ARF is a confidence building measure. The meeting was also buoyed by the fact that the ASEAN group had agreed with China to hold consultations on the South China Sea in Beijing in September. This small move should ease tensions between claimant states which have been simmering for some time. Thailand is expected to hold a meeting in advance to try and coordinate the ASEAN position on a code of conduct.

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Tsakhiagiin Elbegdorj

News of the Week

1 July 2013


Mongolian President Tsakhiagiin Elbegdorj has won a second term in office, defeating former wrestler Badmaanyambuugiin Bat-erdene and Natsag Udval, Mongolia\'s first female contender for the presidency. Mr Elbegdorj won just over 50% of the votes in an election campaign dominated about how to distribute more fairly the country’s wealth from natural resources.

South Korean President visits China

President Park of South Korea visited China for a four day visit including meetings with President Xi and Prime Minister Li. The situation in North Korea and trade relations were top of the agenda.

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Kevin Rudd PM

Rudd Ousts Gillard

27 June 2013

Kevin Rudd has become Australia’s Prime Minister again following a leadership defeat for Julia Gillard within the parliamentary Labour Party. Many MPs, worried at the prospect of a landslide defeat in the general election scheduled for September, switched to support Rudd who is more popular in the polls. The Labour Party had been divided for months over the Rudd/Gillard rivalry. After her defeat, by 57 votes to 45, Gillard immediately announced that she would be leaving politics.

Despite their bitter rivalry, Mr Rudd praised his predecessor when he addressed parliament shortly after being sworn in. He said that Gillard had achieved ‘major reforms for our nation that will shape our country\'s future’ and he acknowledged ‘her great work as a standard bearer for women in our country.’ Referring to the many personal attacks on his predecessor, he called on fellow MPs ‘to be a little kinder and gentler with each other.’

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Xi and Truong

News of the Week

24 June 2013

Vietnamese President Visits China

President Truong Tan Sang visited China for talks with China’s Xi Jinping. Both sides expressed a determination to resolve their territorial disputes in the South China Sea peacefully.

Shinzo Abe\'s assistant’s secret visit to China

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe\'s diplomatic assistant Shotaro Yachi paid a secret visit to China in mid-June for talks with former State Councilor Dai Bingguo and other senior government officials.

Taliban open office in Doha

To the surprise of many, including the Karzai government, the Taliban opened a political office in Doha, Qatar, and announced that talks would soon start with US officials.

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Kim Jong Un US

News of the Week

16 June 2013

North Korea wants high-level talks with the US

After months of threats and bluster against the US and South Korea, the DPRK has said that it wants ‘serious discussions’ with the US to ‘secure peace and stability in the region’. There have been no high-level talks between the US and North Korea since 2009. The reason for this turnaround is likely to be the need to secure a relaxation of sanctions. The DPRK is known to be short of fuel and food.

Japan-US hold joint military exercises

US military and the Japanese Self-Defence Forces have carried out an ‘island defence’ training exercise in California which has provoked a protest from China. Although Tokyo and Washington insisted the exercise was not aimed at any specific country, the Chinese media considered the exercise unhelpful in light of ongoing Sino-Japanese tensions over the Senkaku/Diaoyu islands.

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Solar Panels

News of the Week

10 June 2013

Anti-dumping levies on Chinese solar panel imports

On 4 June the European Commission published the preliminary results of its anti-dumping investigation on Chinese solar panel products and decided to impose provisional anti-dumping duties on Chinese solar panel products from 6 June to 6 August. Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei said on 5 June that the China expressed its firm opposition to these temporary tariffs. At the same time, the Chinese Ministry of Commerce announced the launch of Chinese anti-dumping investigations on wine imported from the EU.

Xi Jinping visits Mexico

Chinese President Xi Jinping began his state visit to Mexico on 4 June. He held talks with Mexican President Peña and they exchanged views on deepening pragmatic cooperation between China and Mexico. Both sides agreed to turn their relationship into a comprehensive strategic partnership.

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Xi-Obama Summit

‘Terrific’ US-China Summit

10 June 2013

President Obama’s one word description of the two day summit in California with Chinese President Xi Jinping as ‘terrific’ demonstrated US satisfaction with the meeting. US National Security Advisor Tom Donilon (soon to be replaced by Susan Rice) told the press that Obama considered the summit ‘unique, positive and constructive’. But he added that Obama had warned Xi that cyber-crime could still be a negative factor in their relationship. The theft of intellectual property was another major US concern.

In a separate briefing, Yang Jiechi, a top Xi foreign policy advisor, said that China was also very satisfied with the summit. Beijing wanted co-operation rather than friction with the US over cyber-security. He added that Xi had outlined to Obama his concept of the Chinese Dream and summarized the Chinese view of the future Sino-American relationship as ‘no conflict and no confrontation’, ‘mutual respect’ and ‘cooperation toward win-win results’.

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Xi Jinping in Trinidad

News of the Week

3 June 2013

Xi Jingping visits Trinidad and Tobago, Costa Rica and Mexico

On 31 May, Chinese President, Xi Jingping, began a visit to Trinidad and Tobago, the first ever by a Chinese head of state. He will then visit Costa Rica and Mexico before travelling to California for a summit with President Obama. China has been increasing its trade with the Caribbean and Central American states and hopes to gain political support as a result of this visit.

Shangri-La Security Conference, Singapore

Catherine Ashton spoke at the annual IISS conference in Singapore highlighting the EU’s capabilities as a security partner for Asia. The defence ministers of Japan, the US and South Korea had a side meeting to discuss the situation in North Korea. China and the US traded allegations about cyber security attacks.

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Ashton at Shangri-La Dialogue 2013

Ashton offers Asia Security Partnership

3 June 2013

Speaking at the Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore on 1 June, Catherine Ashton said that in a world faced by multiple and continually evolving security threats, building strong partnerships between like-minded regions had never been more important. The EU was ‘a true Asian partner’ as its unique comprehensive approach enabled it to play a key role in tackling many of the security issues affecting Asia.

To underline her commitment to Asian security issues, Ashton announced that she would be attending next month\'s ASEAN Regional Forum in Brunei and would be heading an EU-led task force to Myanmar before the end of the year.

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China Switzerland FTA

News of the week

29 May 2013

China and Switzerland sign framework of FTA

The preliminary agreement was signed in Bern during an official visit by Chinese Premier Li Keqiang to Switzerland, the first stop on his short European tour. Switzerland’s economy minister Johann Schneider-Ammann said he hoped to sign the FTA during his visit to Beijing in mid-July. After Iceland, Switzerland would become the second European nation to sign a free-trade deal with China. For China, it would be the first such deal with one of the 20 leading economies of the globe, Li Keqiang said after the signing of the framework. According to Xinhua, Switzerland will offer zero tariffs for 99.7% of China’s exports, while China will offer zero tariffs for 84.2% of Swiss imports. Bilateral trade between the two is worth $26bn through imports and exports of watches, medicine, textiles, and dairy products. 

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