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Tenth Asia – Europe Meeting in Milan

19 October 2014

The tenth Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM 10) was held in Milan on 16-17 October with leaders from over 50 European and Asian countries attending. ASEM 10 was hosted by the Prime Minister of Italy Matteo Renzi and chaired by the President of the European Council Herman Van Rompuy. Two new members joined the club - Croatia and Kazakhstan.

Under the theme “Responsible Partnership for Sustainable Growth and Security”, leaders exchanged views on economic, financial, regional and global issues, as well as traditional and non-traditional security challenges. Leaders also agreed to strengthen ASEM’s three pillars of cooperation in the lead-up to ASEM’s 20th anniversary in 2016. ASEM 11 will be hosted by Mongolia.

On the economic side leaders discussed the usual themes of tackling global imbalances, unemployment and slow growth. They underlined the need for an open, stable and predictable rules-based multilateral trading system and called on all members to ratify and implement the Trade Facilitation Action Plan (TFAP) and the Investment Promotion Action Plan (IPAP) which seeks to tackle trade-distorting or protectionist measures.

There was a call to speed up ratification of the IMF quota and governance reforms that would benefit Asian countries, especially China.


One area they emphasised for future cooperation was connectivity between the two regions covering not only trade and investment but energy, information, knowledge and ideas, and greater institutional linkages. They also called for the establishment of faster and more secure transport routes between Europe and Asia, inevitable dubbed the new Silk Road by the media.

There were calls for closer cooperation on climate change with the aim of agreeing a legal instrument at Paris in December 2015.  

On the security front there had been heated exchanges between some of the Asian countries in the run up to the summit. China refused to accept any mention of disputes in the South China Sea so the final statement just mentioned that leaders agreed on the critical importance of refraining from the use or threat of force and of disputes being resolved in accordance with principles of international law, including the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).


During the restricted retreat session (a new idea for ASEM) leaders were able to raise several contentious issues without the need to seek agreement. These covered Iran, Libya, Syria and Iraq, regional security in Asia including Afghanistan and the DPRK, and Ukraine.


Leaders also tasked their Foreign Ministers and Senior Officials to submit concrete recommendations on the future direction of ASEM to the next summit, when the 20th anniversary of ASEM will be marked. Thailand agreed to organise a symposium on the Future Direction of ASEM.

This was a successful meeting measured against the restrictions of ASEM which is not an institution and not a decision-making body. It does allow European and Asian leaders the opportunity to have formal and increasingly informal discussions on a whole range of issues. In addition there are a plethora of side meetings where real business is done.

Media attention was on the side meetings to discuss the Ukraine crisis. EU leaders met with President Putin and President Poroshenko, who also had a bilateral. But regrettably there was little progress.

ASEM now moves towards its 20th anniversary in reasonably good shape. So long as there are no exaggerated expectations about ASEM it will continue to provide a useful platform for all its members.