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Relaunch of EU-ASEAN Trade Talks

14 March 2017

EU Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmström and her counterparts from ASEAN agreed last week to take new steps towards resuming free trade talks between the two regions. Speaking after the annual EU-ASEAN ministerial consultations held in Manila, Malmström said: ‘2017 marks the 40th anniversary of fruitful cooperation between the EU and ASEAN. There is still much to be done to unlock the full potential of the relationship but the quickly changing international environment now makes us turn our eyes even more towards Asia. I am glad to see that both sides are now ready to seize the momentum and start preparations towards re-launching these negotiations. This is a significant and timely initiative, and it shows that the EU and ASEAN are committed to take the lead together on regional and global trade.”

Senior officials will now start working out the parameters of the negotiations for a future ASEAN-EU region-to-region agreement. The participants also agreed to organize expert meetings in new areas of cooperation such as public procurement, e-commerce, and simplifying trade for small and medium-sized enterprises. Participants agreed to have their officials explore the idea of a multilateral court for investment that can serve as a single global judicial instance for resolving investment-related disputes.

On the sidelines, Commissioner Malmström also met bilaterally with trade and economic Ministers from several ASEAN countries, including Cambodia, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines and Vietnam.

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park

South Korea's Park Geun-hye impeached

12 March 2017

Park Geun-hye has become the first democratically elected South Korean president to be forced from office, after the country’s constitutional court upheld a parliamentary vote to impeach her over a corruption and cronyism scandal that could see her face criminal charges. She will immediately forfeit the executive immunity she enjoyed as president, meaning prosecutors can summon, question and possibly arrest her. There is now likely to be a turbulent period while a new President is elected. There are unlikely to be any new foreign policy initiatives for some time.

The Constitutional Court formally removed Park from office on 10 March, upholding an impeachment motion filed by politicians in December amid suspicions that she colluded with a confidante (Ms Choi Soon-sil) to extort money and favours from companies and allowed the friend to secretly manipulate state affairs.

The ruling ended a power struggle that had consumed the nation for months and marked a stunning downfall for Park, who convincingly defeated her liberal opponent in 2012 with overwhelming support from older South Koreans, who remembered her father, a former South Korean leader, as a hero.

The court said it could not find conclusive evidence for most of these charges. But it was able to rule that Ms Park had divulged state secrets to Choi Soon-sil, a close friend who amassed a personal fortune of $20m. Park also colluded to help her extort funds from conglomerates and profit from two cultural organisations that Ms Choi controlled.

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human right

Human Rights in Asia

9 March 2017

The annual report of Amnesty International released on 22 February paints a depressing picture of the human rights situation in Asia which it claims has worsened during 2016-17. It pointed out that young people were using social media to expose injustice but too often governments displayed ‘an appalling disregard for freedom, justice and dignity’.

In East Asia, the report stated that governmental transparency diminished and the perception of a growing gap between governments and their citizens increased. This was compounded by entrenched repression in countries such as China and North Korea. A pattern of deepening intolerance towards criticism and open debate unfolded in South Asia, with bloggers murdered in Bangladesh, media workers assailed in Pakistan and space for civil society in countries such as India shrinking. In Southeast Asia, key rights – freedoms of thought, conscience, religion, opinion, expression, association and assembly – came under extensive assault, with crackdowns by Thailand’s military regime and attempts to mute political voices in Malaysia.

As the space for civil society shrank in many countries, discrimination – particularly against racial and ethnic minorities, and women and girls – expanded in a range of countries and contexts. In many states torture and other ill-treatment was among the tools used to target human rights defenders, marginalized groups and others. Such violations were often sustained by a failure to ensure accountability for torturers and other perpetrators of human rights violations. Impunity was pernicious, frequently chronic, and common to many states. 

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trump and abe

Trump confirms status quo in Asia

15 February 2017

By confirming that the US would follow the ‘One China’ policy and simultaneously reassuring PM Abe that the US-Japan alliance would remain ‘the cornerstone of security in Asia’, Trump has essentially confirmed the status quo in Asia.

There had been much speculation after Trump, as President-elect, received a phone call from President Tsai of Taiwan that he might use the “One China’ policy as a bargaining chip. But his top advisers convinced him this was a bad idea and in a phone call with President Xi he reiterated the long-standing China policy. In an exchange of letters Xi and Trump also shared wishes to continue a close and productive relationship.

These moves will be welcomed by most countries in Asia that were worried about some of the statements during Trump’s campaign when he called on Japan and S Korea to do more for their own defence and even said they might develop their own nuclear weapons.

The recent visit of Pentagon chief, General Mattis, to S Korea and Japan was also a sign of reassurance that Washington did not intend to change course in East Asia. Secretary of State Tillerson also rowed back from his tough remarks during his Senate confirmation hearing on the South China Sea. He now considers that there need be no increased military action beyond existing freedom of navigation operations.

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eu india

EU-India Think Tank Meetings

6 February 2017

Over the past two years the EU-Asia Centre and the EPC have managed a series of research projects aimed at increasing mutual understanding between India and the EU, promoting contacts between EU and Indian think tanks and developing new ideas on how the EU-India strategic partnership should evolve in the future.

It was agreed to focus the research projects in the following areas:

·      Global Governance;

·      International Security;

·      Promoting Sustainability. 


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forum

EU, China advance amid global uncertainty

18 January 2017

When President Xi Jinping addresses the world's business and financial elites on Tuesday, he will have an opportunity to demonstrate China's commitment to globalization.

In light of the worrying, uncertain and often contradictory messages emanating from Trump Towers in recent weeks, political and business leaders attending Davos will ask each other just what US president-elect Donald Trump means for global political, economic, security and trade policies.

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eu-asean

ASEAN-EU Ministerial Strengthens Ties

17 October 2016

The ASEAN-EU ministerial meeting in Bangkok on 13-14 October was a quiet success although overshadowed by the death of the King of Thailand. The two sides reinforced their determination to deepen relations, had good discussions on common security challenges, and agreed to launch talks on a new Comprehensive Air Transport Agreement aimed at increasing flights between the two regions.

Ten EU foreign ministers made the journey to Bangkok with five on the ASEAN side. As Federica Mogherini was ill the EU delegation was led by Slovak Foreign Minister Miroslav Lajcak who reminded the meeting that the EU was the largest investor in the region and would continue pursuing its aim of bilateral FTAs with a view to a region to region FTA at a later date. He also promised that the EU would continue to support regional development including the Lower Mekong delta project.

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ADB kept its 2016 and 2017 GDP growth forecasts unchanged from its March estimates of 5.7% for each year.

ADB Forecast steady growth

27 September 2016

Developing Asia is expected to grow steadily despite external pressures and should meet earlier forecasts for 2016 and 2017, aided by resilience in the region\'s two largest economies—the People\'s Republic of China and India, says a new Asian Development Bank (ADB) study. 
In an update of its flagship annual economic publication, Asian Development Outlook (ADO) 2016, ADB kept its 2016 and 2017 gross domestic product (GDP) growth forecasts unchanged from its March estimates of 5.7% for each year. 

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fta

FTA with Vietnam is win-win deal

16 September 2016

The EU’s FTA with Vietnam will boost growth and investment according to the top officials who negotiated the deal. Speaking at a conference on 14 September, co-sponsored by the EU-Asia Centre, Tran Quoc Khahn, Vice Minister of industry and trade, and Mauro Petriccione, Deputy Director General, DG Trade, both expressed optimism about the potential for both sides to ensure a win-win outcome.

Opening the panel discussion, Fraser Cameron, Director of the EU-Asia Centre, said that free trade was under attack as never before from populist forces. It was important that all supporters of the FTA lobbied hard to ensure ratification of the EU-Vietnam agreement. The FTA was a potential model for future agreements with SE Asian countries.

Mr Petriccione said that the EU had developed very close economic relations with Vietnam in the past decade and the two economies were largely complementary. Vietnam had embraced free trade quicker than most Asian countries. Vietnam was involved in the supply chains of many European companies. He expected ratification to be done by 2018.

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EU China

EU-China Summit

1 August 2016

The 18th EU-China summit that took place on 12-13 July in Beijing was held against the background of the landmark Hague ruling on the South China Sea (SCS) and the dispute on market economy status (MES). The Hague ruling, published during the actual summit, comprehensively rejected China’s claims to enjoy sovereignty over most of the SCS and criticised China for its island building activities. Inevitable there were different views on the ruling at the summit but it did not completely dominate the agenda. The EU statement on the SCS was not as strong as some had wished which reflected differences between the Member States.

The main dispute at the summit was over market economy status (MES) with Chinese leaders arguing that it should be granted automatically under the terms of their WTO accession. EU leaders said that the EU position was still under discussion but the prospects for MES were not helped by the massive over-capacity in the Chinese steel industry which was causing political problems in several member States. 

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