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Ashton and Khurshid

EU-India Ministerial Meeting

31 January 2013

Catherine Ashton and the Indian Minister for External Affairs, Salman  Khurshid, met in Brussels on 30 January. This was the first such visit by an Indian foreign minister in eight years. The discussions centred on two main areas. First, a review of the EU-India bilateral relationship. Second, an exchange on current international issues.

Both Ashton and Khurshid expressed satisfaction at developments in the bilateral relationship. Ashton said the relationship, which was based on common values, had become ‘both wider and deeper since the Strategic Partnership was established in 2004’. The partnership featured ‘regular political consultations and growing ties between our civil societies which we place great value upon’.

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Christine Lagarde World Economic Forum 2013

Asia leading world growth in 2013 but Europe holding it back

28 January 2013

Economic projections for 2013 are encouraging for most Asians (indeed for most emerging economies) but make gloomy reading for Europeans according to IMF and World Bank projections just published[1]. The world’s overall growth rate in 2013 is foreseen to increase modestly to +3.5% (IMF) due mostly to robust performance in emerging regions – particularly Asia. But Euro-zone and UK output – are foreseen to decline by -0.2% in 2013 contributing nothing to world growth this year. The US should grow modestly at +2% in 2013 – a little less than the +2.3% in 2012, but risks also remain in the United States.

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EU-Asia Centre


24 January 2013

This month Tom Roe, a former senior advisor for Asia in the EEAS, joins the Centre as Senior Vice President. A former EU ambassador in Hong Kong, Tom will be responsible inter alia for corporate development.

The Centre is organising a major networking conference on EU-Asia relations on 12 February with the Belgian Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The aim is to improve the interface between experts and officials to assist in the policy-making process.

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Park Geun Hye

Park Geun Hye new President of South Korea

19 December 2012

Park Geun Hye has won the presidential elections and will be Korea’s first female head of state. Her challenger, Moon Jae In of the Democratic United Party received 48% of the votes and admitted defeat while the votes were still being counted. Park, member of the ruling Saenuri Party, received 51.6% of the votes. Voter turnout was 75.8%. In February, Park will take office for a five year-term from her party colleague Lee Myung-bak.

The main election issues were the reform of the welfare system, decreasing income inequality, and dealing with the chaebol, conglomerates that control big parts of the South Korean economy.

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Shinzo Abe new PM

Shinzo Abe back as Japan's Prime Minister

17 December 2012

Shinzo Abe, who took over as leader of the conservative Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) just three months ago, led his party to a landslide victory in the 16 December parliamentary elections. Forecasts give the LDP around 290 seats in the 480-member lower house of parliament. No party has a majority in the upper house but if the LDP forms a coalition with the New Komeito Party they could have a two-thirds majority which would allow them to push through most legislation. Abe is expected to take office as prime minister on 26 December.

Likely to be Japan\'s seventh PM in as many years, Mr Abe faces tough decisions on the economy and China. At a news conference on 17 December he said his party understood its ‘heavy responsibility.’ He added that ‘our victory this time does not mean trust in the Liberal Democratic Party has been completely restored.

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EU-Singapore FTA

EU-Singapore FTA Agreed

16 December 2012

After more than two years of negotiations, the EU and Singapore agreed on 16 December a free trade agreement (FTA). This is the first with an ASEAN country and the second in Asia following the FTA with South Korea in 2011. Further FTAs are in prospect with a number of Asian countries including Japan, Vietnam, Malaysia and India.

Initially there were hopes of an EU-ASEAN FTA but the economic differences on the ASEAN side made such a deal impossible to negotiate. Attention then switched to bilateral FTAs with Singapore top of the list as the richest country in SE Asia.

In a statement, EU Trade Commissioner de Gucht said that Singapore, even with a population of just five million, was ‘a dynamic market for EU companies and a vital hub for doing business across Southeast Asia.  Sealing this deal with Singapore clearly puts the EU on the map in Asia. But we do not intend to stop here – I hope it will open the doors for FTAs with other countries in the ASEAN region.’

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EAS Group photo

The ASEAN and East Asia Summits

22 November 2012

Both President Obama and Premier Wen Jiabao attend this week’s East Asia Summit in Cambodia. It was preceded by one of the regular ASEAN summits 18-20 November. The EU has applied to join the East Asia Summit but is not there yet. The summit marked President Obama’s first overseas trip since his re-election and was the last by Wen. 

There were no major decisions or agreements at the East Asia summit which was over-shadowed by on-going tensions in the South and East China Seas. President Obama urged the nations involved not to escalate the disputes while Wen argued that the disputes should not be raised in summit meetings.

While the US has traditionally used its web of military alliances for influence China has emphasized more its economic and financial power. In a pre-trip briefing in Washington DC, Tom Donilon, Obama’s national security advisor, said that the Obama visit was ‘a powerful statement that the Asia-Pacific will continue to be a strategic priority during the President’s second term.’

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China's New Leaders

China's New Leaders

15 November 2012

The 18th National Congress of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) ended yesterday. Today, the new leadership was appointed. As expected, Xi Jinping was confirmed as General Secretary of the Party and will most likely take over the presidency from Hu Jintao in 2013. Li Keqiang was confirmed as vice premier and is expected to take Wen Jiabao’s place next year. The other newly elected members of the Standing Committee of the Politburo are Zhang Dejiang, Yu Zhengsheng, Liu Yunshan, Wang Qishan, and Zhang Gaoli.

The main issue at the National Congress was that of the future direction of China’s development. In his speech on 8 November, President Hu Jintao emphasized five key areas for China’s modernization: economy, politics, culture, society, and ecology. The issue of ecology was first introduced in 2007 and gained a more prominent position at this year’s Congress.

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9th ASEM Summit

9th ASEM Summit in Laos

6 November 2012

The 9th ASEM summit was held in Vientiane, Laos on 5-6 November. This biannual meeting brings together all heads of state and government from Europe and Asia to discuss contemporary international issues and how to deepen cooperation between the two regions.

The main focus of the ASEM summit under the theme “Friends for Peace, Partners for Prosperity” was economic and financial issues. The EU’s measures undertaken to ensure financial stability and economic growth were also discussed. In his closing remarks, EU Council President van Rompuy stated: “The Eurozone is on the right track. The euro is an irreversible project. It is expected that growth will start picking up in the course of 2013.” However, he stressed the interdependence between Europe and Asia and the possibilities to learn from each other.

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Australia's Asia Century

Australia's Asia Century

29 October 2012

This week Australian PM Julia Gillard outlined a major foreign policy shift aimed at refocusing away from Europe’s ‘old countries’ to its Asian neighbours.  A government white paper ‘Australia in the Asian Century’ sets out 25 national objectives to be met by 2025, with targets ranging from improving trade links to teaching more Asian languages

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