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Successful ASEM in Brussels

22 October 2018

23 October 2018

Successful ASEM Summit in Brussels

Last week’s ASEM summit was regarded as a success by all participants who, after some disputes on the South China Sea, DPRK and WTO reforms, signed off a reasonably ambitious final statement calling on nations to fight protectionism and defend the rules-based multilateral system. Connectivity was another main theme of the summit, with the EU submitting its freshly adopted EU Strategy on Connecting Europe and Asia. The final Chair's Statement of the Summit is available here.

There was also an EU-ASEAN meeting of senior officials which provided the occasion for an assessment of relations between the two blocs (see here). EU-ASEAN foreign ministers will meet in January in Brussels. 

On the bilateral front there was a summit between the EU and Korea with President Moon reaffirming the importance of the strategic partnership with the EU (see here). Further discussions were held on the liberalization and regulation of the aviation marker and on fisheries. Both sides reiterated their full commitment to the Paris Agreement on climate change. The EU furthermore stressed the requirement for the DPRK to completely, verifiably and irreversibly dismantle all its nuclear and other weapons of mass destruction, ballistic missiles and related programmes and facilities. The ROK position was slightly more nuanced reflecting President Moon’s efforts to boost inter-Korean relations.

After years of political and legal turmoil, the EU and Singapore finally signed their bilateral Free Trade Agreement (see press release here). President of the Commission Jean-Claude Juncker said, "The signature of the EU-Singapore agreements is another strong message by like-minded partners to defend and promote an international system that is based on rules, on cooperation, and on multilateralism." European Commissioner for Trade shared a similar message, stating that "These deals, as all our recent ones, go beyond economic considerations and demonstrate a strong commitment to promoting human and labour rights and to protecting the environment. In this difficult period on the world stage, we need strong allies such as Singapore in order to uphold the rules-based global trade system."

In a joint statement, the EU and Vietnam reconfirmed their shared commitment to the multilateral order and looked forward to the signature of the trade and investment agreements between the EU and Vietnam as soon as legal and translation work has been completed (see joint statement here). 

Japanese Prime Minister Abe also held a bilateral with EU leaders expressing the hope that the Brexit negotiations would result in a deal. He pointed to the considerable Japanese economic and trade interests that would be affected by the outcome.

In what may be interpreted as a clear defensive signal to President Trump, Chinese Premier Li Keqiang met with European Commission President Juncker to assess progress in EU-China relations, including on WTO reform and on the investment agreement that is currently being negotiated.

One of ASEM’s greatest strengths is that it has a solid bottom-up dimension, bringing together governments as well as parliaments, the private sector, the academic community and civil society organisations. It therefore has the capacity to engage with several different stakeholders. There were several ASEM-sponsored meetings last week including an editor’s roundtable on fake news (see here), a young leaders’ summit (see here) a Asia-Europe Business Forum (click here) and a meeting of parliamentarians last month (ASEP, see here).