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ASEAN summit

ASEAN summit welcomes Myanmar changes

6 April 2012

The 20th ASEAN summit in Cambodia on 3-4 April celebrated its 45th anniversary and tackled a number of difficult issues (Myanmar, South China Sea) and avoided a few (North Korea satellite launch). The summit took place just three weeks before the EU-ASEAN ministerial which Catherine Ashton will attend before visiting Myanmar. Prior to the summit there was an EU-ASEAN business meeting where Trade Commissioner, Karel de Gucht, reiterated the EU’s desire to reach a bloc to bloc free trade agreement.

Myanmar has often been a problem both for ASEAN and for EU-ASEAN relations. On this occasion, the ten-nation grouping welcomed political and economic reforms in Myanmar and called for all sanctions against the country to be lifted ‘in order to contribute positively to the democratic process and economic development.’ The US has since promised to ease sanctions while the EU is expected to take a similar decision later this month

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EU-Korean Leaders

EU-Korea Summit

28 March 2012

Following the nuclear summit in Seoul, EU and Korea leaders met for the sixth EU-Korea summit. Inevitably attention was on North Korea’s intention to launch a satellite next month. But there was also a broad discussion on the bilateral relationship.

At a joint press conference with South Korean President Lee Myung-bak, President van Rompuy said the EU was ‘gravely concerned’ at North Korea\'s missile and nuclear weapons programmes and called on it to refrain from any destabilising act. Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso highlighted the gravity of North Korea\'s human rights situations and urged Pyongyang to divert more resources to feed its people instead of developing costly weapons programmes.

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Hong Kong -Chief Executive Election

Hong Kong - Chief Executive Election

20 March 2012

Last week C.Y.Leung was elected the new Chief Executive in Hong Kong.  The electorate is made up of 1200 people representing different constituencies in the territory (business, professional and trade associations, trades unions, etc. Mr Leung won a clear victory over Mr Tang and Mr Ho.  

The campaign was more interesting than usual because of the ‘basement scandal’ surrounding Henry Tang, the perceived favourite candidate of Beijing. The local media had highlighted the luxurious basement including wine cellar he built (or his wife built) which resulted in a dramatic drop in his public support. Although he gained more nominations than his rivals, opinion polls showed Mr Tang with only 20 per cent of popular support against nearly 50 per cent for his main rival, C.Y. Leung, a self-made man with a strong social platform. Mr Leung has, for example, promised to build more public housing. The third candidate, Albert Ho, the head of the Democratic Party, ran a poor third. 

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China politics

China Politics

20 March 2012

A political earthquake hit China last week with the sudden purge of Bo Xilai, the outspoken party boss from Chongquin. Experts agreed that this was the most dramatic upheaval in China for over thirty years.

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South Asia 2047

Imagining South Asia in 2047

7 March 2012

This article by Ramesh Thakur, first published in the Winter 2012 issue of Global Brief magazine, provides an interesting and thought provoking analysis of how South Asia might look in the future. Professor Thakur predicts that one hundred years after Indian and Pakistani independence, a region-wide compact and community will have turned one of the world’s most explosive theatres into a peaceable, prosperous commonwealth.

He concludes that it may well be that South Asian regional institutions – and South Asian governance more broadly – will assimilate global norms. On the other hand, the region’s weight and gravity (and ‘soft power’) may be such that South Asian institutions could well shape global governance and international norms – at present, mainly of Western intellectual origin – through the export of South Asian values and worldviews. To be sure, if regionalism is elevated to the status of a major plank of the SAARC countries’ foreign policies, it would enhance the countries’ global influence and role, enable states to exercise a moderating influence on India as the regional hegemon, and also promote the economic development of all states in the region.

For such an ambitious vision to be realized by 2047, South Asia will require a quality of national leadership that is still missing in 2012 – but that, it should be stressed, may well be around the corner.

 

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Gillard beats Rudd

Gillard beats Rudd - appoints Carr

2 March 2012

Following her defeat of Kevin Rudd in an internal party ballot last week, Australian Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, has appointed the former premier of New South Wales, Bob Carr, as Foreign Minister. 

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Nuke freeze

North Korea agrees nuclear freeze for food aid

1 March 2012

Just two months after Kim Jong-un came to power following the death of his father, Kim Jong-il, Pyongyang has announced the suspension of uranium enrichment, as well as nuclear and long-range missile tests, in return for US food aid.

This dramatic move has received a cautious international welcome. The EU’s Catherine Ashton said that the moratoriam ‘if confirmed and implemented’ would be ‘a first step in the right direction.’ The White House also welcomed the agreement as ‘a positive first step toward complete and verifiable denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula in a peaceful manner. North Korea would now need to follow up by actions.’

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Commissioner De Gucht in Hong Kong

Commissioner De Gucht in Hong Kong

16 February 2012

European Commissioner for Trade, Karel De Gucht, spoke 16 February 2012 about EU Asian cooperation in an era of transformation at the Foreign Correspondents Club, Hong Kong. In a wide ranging speech he emphasised the importance of avoiding protectionism.

\"As Europeans and Asians move now to revamp our economies in the face of deep global transformations we have an opportunity to do so in cooperation. We must not jeopardise the open markets that have proven so valuable for our economies over the past decades. We must, instead, continue to fight protectionism and make the case for free trade. China has a particularly important role to play in this process, given its huge influence on and stake in the system. 

We can also use this moment of change to strengthen our relationships – between the EU and China, but also between the EU and the wider region. Our partnership will only be reinforced however, if, as well as celebrating our achievements, we also seek to overcome our differences though frank discussion. 

Finally, the economic situation in Europe also represents a possibility. In finding a way through we will have to deal with many structural weaknesses that we have waited far too long to address. Though the European economy has its difficulties, the reports of our death are greatly exaggerated.\"

 

 

 

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Cultivating the cross-Straits generation

Cultivating the cross-Straits generation

7 February 2012

This year’s election in Taiwan on Jan 14, in which current Kuomintang chairman, Ma Ying-jeou defeated Tsai Ing-wen, the candidate of Democratic Progressive Party, came during a critical period of political and economic changes for the Asia-Pacific region. The ongoing global financial and economic crisis has severely affected the region’s major economies, as exports have declined and unemployment is rising rapidly. In addition to the economic uncertainties, Asia-Pacific’s regional stability is further complicated by the forthcoming presidential elections in the United States and the Republic of Korea, the leadership transition in China, and, of course, the recent power transition in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea following the death of Kim Jong-il. Therefore, Ma’s victory is not only significant for political ties across the Straits, but also for wider regional stability.

EU-Asia Centre Board member, Wei Shen, in an article that appeared in the China Daily 4 February 2012 looks at how cross Straits relations will develop post elections in Taiwan.

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Merkel visits China February 2012

Angela Merkel visits China

2 February 2012

German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s visit to China on Thursday and Friday will be a good opportunity for her to brief China’s leaders on the outcome of the European Union summit on Monday. Merkel will also argue that it is in China’s interest to invest more in Europe.

The German chancellor will be pleased with the EU summit results, which endorsed Berlin’s long-standing wish for more fiscal discipline in EU member states. But she will still face pressure to provide more funds for struggling Greece and to take more measures to boost domestic demand.

EU-Asia Director, Fraser Cameron comments on the visit in China Daily

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