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Asia Leads Global Growth

9 June 2017

According to the IMF latest forecasts, Asia continues to lead global growth with the region predicted to enjoy over 5% growth in 2017 and 2018 compared to just over 3.5% for the rest of the world. This means that Asia will contribute around two-thirds of global growth thus continuing a trend of several years. The reasons for this high growth include higher external and domestic demand, rebounding global commodity prices, and domestic reforms.

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China’s Showcase Silk Road Summit

18 May 2017

China certainly knows how to put on a good show. After the Beijing Olympics, the Shanghai Expo and the Hangzhou G20, President Xi’s Belt and Road Forum on 14-15 May brought together a staggering array of world leaders including Vladimir Putin, Recep Erdogan, Michelle Bachelet, Christine Lagarde and Antonio Gutteres.

Thanks to a closure of factories Beijing was bathed in sunshine and enjoyed clear blue skies. “I wish there was a summit every month” said my taxi driver.

Speaker after speaker lined up to laud President Xi’s vision for a new Silk Road. It was a ‘win-win project’ that would bring economic prosperity and ‘mutual benefit’ for all countries involved. The project would build roads, railways, ports, pipelines, energy and telecommunications infrastructure linking China to Central and South East Asia, Europe and Africa by land and sea. 

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fr

EU ready to move forward with China after French election

8 May 2017

Sunday's convincing win for Emmanuel Macron in the French presidential elections provides the EU with an opportunity to shake off its populist blues and move forward with a new unity of purpose. The Macron win was important because he was by far the most pro-EU candidate arguing that what France needed was more European integration, not less. It is no surprise that his victory was especially welcomed in Brussels.

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china trip

Mogherini Visit to China and India

27 April 2017

Federica Mogherini had successful talks in China and India (plus Russia) in the third week of April. In both countries, largely as a reaction to the unpredictability of the Trump administration, she found a renewed interest in a strong EU as a pillar of the multilateral system especially on free trade and climate change. There was also growing interest in the EU as a security actor.

The China leg was to participate in the regular strategic dialogue with State Councillor Yang Jiechi. She also met the Minister of National Defence Chang Wanquan, PM Li Keqiang, EU business leaders, and gave a speech at Tsinghua university. The visit also helped prepare the annual EU-China summit scheduled for early June in Brussels.

 Building on President Xi’s Davos speech in which he emphasised China’s commitment to multilateralism, Mogherini was able to engage her Chinese interlocutors in a range of issues where the EU and China could work together.  These included trade where she pressed for conclusion of the bilateral investment negotiations; climate change – maintaining Paris commitments; UN sustainable development targets; urbanisation and innovation. Mogherini explained the on-going EU legislative proposal to change the EU’s anti-dumping procedures, which would impact on MES.

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Mogherini visits China and India as Asia reacts to Trump

18 April 2017

Federica Mogherini visits China and India this week as Asian leaders still struggle to come to terms with the Trump phenomenon. The EU foreign policy chief will be concentrating on measures to improve EU-China and EU-India relations but her interlocutors, and others in the region, will be focused more on Trump’s tweets, especially as tension is mounting between the US and North Korea.

Based on her own good ties to senior officials in Washington, Mogherini should be able to reassure Asian leaders that Trump’s rhetoric is one thing – his actual policy another. In the past week Trump has flip-flopped on major foreign policy issues including the relevance of NATO and how to handle China. It is no longer a currency manipulator but a valued partner in helping to tackle the DPRK nuclear issue.

Before and after his inauguration, President Trump had numerous phone calls and meetings with leaders and business people from the Asia Pacific region. During the campaign he worried many Asian leaders with his threats to leave TPP, raise tariffs on Chinese exports and make Japan and South Korea be responsible for their own defence. He also called into question the long-standing ‘One China’ policy by making an early phone call to Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen. Business has also been rattled given the high uncertainty surrounding possible Trump policies in the trade and financial fields. More recently there are signs of a more moderate approach.

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How Trump can win the Nobel Peace Prize

7 April 2017

Sir, You report (April 3) that President Donald Trump “is prepared to tackle North Korea alone” but it should be painfully clear to everyone that there is no military solution to the problem of Kim Jong Un’s nuclear weapons. There is no certainty that the US knows the whereabouts of all North Korea’s launch sites, and any attack would lead to a devastating retaliatory strike on Seoul — a metropolis of 10m just 60km from South Korea’s border with the North.

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HK

Carrie Lam new Hong Kong leader

28 March 2017

On 26 March Carrie Lam (59) was elected the new chief executive of Hong Kong. A former senior civil servant Lam was chosen by a 1200 strong electoral committee which includes 70 members of the territory's legislature, the Legislative Council - half of whom are directly elected. However, most of the Election Committee is chosen by business, professional or special interest groups.

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asean

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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