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arms race

Asian Arms race Continues

28 April 2016

This week’s announcement that Australia has awarded the biggest arms contract in its history ($40 bn) to France provides further fuel to the arms race in Asia. Already last year Asia overtook Europe in terms of defence spending with the total reaching $340bn according to IISS figures. This year the trend is continuing with overall defence expenditure likely to increase by a further 6%. Asian countries are shopping not only for submarines but new generation fighter aircraft, amphibious landing craft and other advanced weaponry. European defence contractors are now looking to Asia to boost falling sales at home.

The reasons for the rise in defence spending include the increasing tensions in the East and South China seas and the unpredictable nature of the regime in North Korea. China accounts for about 40% of the total spending and has ambitious plans to modernise its armed forces and increase its power projection capabilities. 

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HRVP in Indonesia

Mogherini in Indonesia and Japan

8 April 2016

HR/VP Mogherini pays her first visit to Indonesia on 8-9 April before heading for consultations in Japan. Her two-day visit to Jakarata will help prepare the visit of President Jokowi to Brussels on 21 April. Together with Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi, Mogherini will co-host the first Indonesia-EU Ministerial Strategic Dialogue. The bilateral agenda is expected to cover a range of issues, including political and security cooperation, countering radicalisation, advancing trade relations, protecting the environment and combatting climate change. There will also be a focus on the current situation in the South China Sea and the Middle East.

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Modi summit

Modi in Brussels for EU-India summit

1 April 2016

After a four year gap the leaders of India and the EU met in Brussels on 30 March for their 13th summit. Even though it was a short summit, the meeting yielded a surprisingly substantive number of deliverables. Prime Minister Modi and Presidents Tusk and Juncker expressed themselves very satisfied with the progress made.

The summit produced a joint statement of six pages, two joint declarations on water, energy and climate, a renewed joint declaration on counter-terrorism, a common agenda on migration and mobility and a comprehensive roadmap for EU-India relations in the next five years. The latter is arguably the most important outcome if the relationship should evolve into one that deserves its title of “strategic partnership”. In recent years, diplomatic irritations and diverging opinions on trade liberalization have stood in the way of closer EU-Indian relations.

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wiegand 3

Interview with Gunnar Wiegand, Managing Director Asia and Pacific at the EEAS

17 March 2016

EUAC: Welcome to the new position. What were your first thoughts on being appointed as MD for Asia?

GW: I was delighted to be moving to a region which is characterised by its dynamic growth, its diversity and home to four of the EU’s strategic partners. I travelled frequently to Asia when I was spokesman for Commissioner Chris Patten so I am very pleased to reconnect with Asia.

EUAC: Why does Asia matter to Europe?

GW: As HR/VP Mogherini often says security is global in nature.

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Myanmar new president

Htin Kyaw new President of Myanmar

17 March 2016

Htin Kyaw, a close ally of Aung San Suu Kyi, whose National League for Democracy (NLD) party swept to victory in historic elections in November, has been elected Myanmar’s first civilian president for over half a century.

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sanctions DPRK

Tough New UN Sanctions on DPRK

29 February 2016

The United Nations Security Council (UNSC) has agreed on tough new sanctions in response to North Korea\'s recent nuclear test and missile launch. Over the past 10 years, North Korea has conducted four nuclear tests and launched six long-range missiles - all in violation of Security Council resolutions.

After lengthy negotiations, principally between the US and China, both sides accepted the need to send a strong signal to Pyongyang by imposing the strongest set of sanctions imposed by the Security Council in more than 20 years.

The new sanctions aim to cut off the trade and funding of North Korea’s nuclear programme and its military, and to target the DPRK leadership and officials directly involved in these illicit activities. These include:

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vietnam party congress

Continuity in Vietnam

4 February 2016

The EU does not expect any major changes following the results of the communist party congress in Hanoi. Officials consider that the re-election of General Secretary Nguyen Phu Trong will provide for stability and continuity. The challenge of Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung failed as he had insufficient support within the party, with many of the old guard worried that he was pushing ahead too fast with his reform programme. Little is known about Deputy Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc who will replace Dung in a few months, nor the Minister of Public Security Tran Dai Quang, who will be the country\'s new president.

As regards EU-Vietnam relations both sides are pleased that the partnership and cooperation agreement (PCA) is nearly ratified – only three Member States still to ratify. The FTA is also complete and is being prepared for ratification. 

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Tsai Ing Wen

Change in Taiwan

18 January 2016

The Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) won a sweeping victory in the presidential and legislative elections that Taiwan held on 16 January. Tsai Ing-wen, the DPP\'s chairperson, becomes the first female president in Taiwan’s history. She defeated Eric Chu, the Kuomintang (KMT) candidate by 56% to 30%. The DPP will also have an absolute majority in the new legislature.

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shanghai port

Prospect for Asia 2016

28 December 2015

With China taking over as chair of the G20 and Japan chair of the G7 much of the world’s attention will be focused on Asia in 2016. Politically there are likely to be few major changes apart from Taiwan. Leadership changes are not due in any of the EU’s Asian strategic partners – China, Japan, Korea and India.

On the economic front Europe can only dream of the projected growth rates for Asia in 2016. Yet these growth rates are the lowest in the past decade. Although there are slight differences in their projections, the IMF, ADB and OECD all expect Asia to grow at over 6% in 2016. Growth in China (6.5%) will continue to slow while growth in India (8.2%) will be one of the highest levels in the region. Growth in ASEAN is projected at 5.8% in 2016.

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Myanmar post-elections

Landslide victory for Aung San Suu Kyi

25 November 2015

‘Time for Change’ was the election campaign slogan of Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy (NLD). Despite their landslide victory and gaining 78.3% of contested seats, change is likely to be careful and gradual. The military, unlike in 1990, does not need to crack down on the pro-democracy movement. Under the 2008 constitution that it pushed through parliament it can control the direction and pace of political change in Myanmar. In cases of ‘emergency’ the self-proclaimed custodian of the country can take over the government; the military continues to hold the most powerful ministries as well as 25% of seats in both houses. The official election results announced on 20 November put the NLD’s victory into perspective. 78.3% of contested seats translates into controlling 58.7% of parliament, enough to govern alone, but not enough to change the constitution which requires approval of 75% of parliament.

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