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EU- Southeast Asia

Overview of EU Trade Policy in Southeast Asia

By Lena Muxfeldt

11 June 2013

This policy briefing provides an overview of European Union (EU) trade policy in Southeast Asia. Examining current and forthcoming free trade agreement (FTA) negotiations in the context of the Europe 2020 strategy and the shift to bilateral negotiations, the briefing focuses mainly on the current state of play of FTA negotiations with Singapore, Thailand, Vietnam and Malaysia. In addition, it gives an update on the trade relations between the EU and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and individual members who are not yet engaged in bilateral trade negotiations with the EU.

EU trade policy

Although the EU remains committed to multilateralism in trade and the Doha Development Agenda, its current trade policy has shifted towards pursuing bilateral FTAs. In addition to interregional and multilateral efforts, the EU is now also pushing for bilateral economic arrangements. This shift has been due to numerous factors, including difficulties in multilateral trade negotiations, the development of American trade policy and domestic changes within the EU.

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HK Macau PRC

Hong Kong and Macau’s return to China – blessing or curse?

By Julia Marie Ewert

10 June 2013

It is a generation since Hong Kong and Macau were returned to China. How has the situation developed since 1999 in the two Special Administrative Regions (SAR) – and how do locals feel about their relationship with mainland China? Recent tensions between Hong Kong citizens and mainland Chinese have made headlines in Western media. Issues such as rich mainlanders buying up expensive apartments, birth tourism and milk powder shortages have led to a debate about ‘civilized behaviour’. But this is Hong Kong. Attitudes towards mainland China in Macau are more positive as I discovered during a recent trip to the region.

Hong Kong

Hong Kong is one of the richest cities in the world. Its port is one of the busiest on the globe and the Hong Kong dollar is the eighth most traded currency. In particular before the return to China, Hong Kong served as an important gateway for China to the West. Until 2001, around 50% of FDI in China came from Hong Kong and Hong Kong served as a motor for development.

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ASEM Member Countries

Exploring Ideas on ASEM's Future

By Shada Islam

5 June 2013

Ever since the first high-profile Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM) in Bangkok in March 1996, Asian and European leaders, ministers and officials have been working on myriad fronts to forge a stronger region-to-region partnership on issues as diverse as green growth, global peace and prosperity, human rights, education and urbanisation.

Their work may not always make the headlines. And the progress they make can appear slow, plodding and incremental. ASEM participants often complain that their work is not visible to the public, that ASEM does not punch its weight in the over-crowded field of global cooperation platforms and that 17 years after its launch amid much fanfare, ASEM is in need of a new lease of life.

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Myanmar's Moment

Myanmar’s Moment: Unique Opportunities, Major Challenges

By McKinsey Global Institute

5 June 2013

Myanmar is a highly unusual but promising prospect for businesses and investors — an underdeveloped economy with many advantages, in the heart of the world’s fastest-growing region. Home to 60 million inhabitants (46 million of working age), this Asian nation has abundant natural resources and is close to a market of half a billion people. And the country’s early stage of economic development gives it a “greenfield” advantage: an opportunity to build a “fit for purpose” economy to suit the modern world.

Managed well, Myanmar could conceivably quadruple the size of its economy, from $45 billion in 2010 to more than $200 billion in 2030 — creating upward of ten million nonagricultural jobs in the process.

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Ethnic Tensions Myanmar

Will Ethnic Tensions Undermine US Myanmar Relations?

By Jim Della-Giacoma

26 May 2013

The meeting yesterday between presidents Barack Obama and Thein Sein may have been more symbolic than substantive, but it is an important step towards a normal relationship for the United States and Myanmar. It will deepen the engagement of the two countries and move them closer to the broader partnership they want as the transition in the country Washington still calls Burma faces some grave internal challenges.

When Thein Sein took office at the end of March 2011, his inaugural address outlining an ambitious reform agenda was received with scepticism in the United States. But as he brought Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi over to his side, this tone began to change. The April 2012 by-elections saw the National League of Democracy enter Parliament as the largest non-government party.

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CCP Training School

Inside the CCP Training School

By Fraser Cameron

10 May 2013

Think of a Chinese Communist Party re-education training school and the mind conjures a Mao-suited party official haranguing Party members sitting with blank faces. Wrong. On a recent lecture tour of China, I was invited to observe the closing session of a week-long training course for Party members who had been living and working overseas.

I had thought the meeting might be in an austere location in keeping with socialist traditions. To my surprise, it was held in a five star hotel in downtown Shanghai. The cuisine was worthy of a Michelin star.

The next surprise was the delegates. All in their 30s or 40s, they were smartly dressed in the latest fashions and would have slotted into a top New York or Paris restaurant without anyone batting an eyelid.

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Myanmar Ethnic Minorities

The Myanmar Government and Ethnic Minorities: An Unhappy Marriage

By Kaewkamol Pitakdumrongkit

26 April 2013

The recent communal rioting in Meiktila has led critics to doubt the Myanmar government’s ability to cope with its ethnic issue. Although outside efforts have failed to pressure Myanmar to institute improvements, the government will be able to curb its ethnic tensions and prevent them from spiralling out of control, making regional instability unlikely while continuing the relationship of an unhappy marriage.


The recent ethnic conflict in Meiktila, central Myanmar, is different from previous conflicts. It occurred in the inner Myanmar, not in the country’s border towns as before. This might have led some critics to doubt the government’s ability to deal with the ethnic problem since the conflicts have spread to the heartland.

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Pakistan Elections 2013

Pakistan’s 2013 Elections: A Milestone, but Fragile Democracy

By Abdul Basit

7 April 2013


The May 2013 election is going to be a milestone in Pakistan’s political and constitutional history. It will decide the direction of Pakistan’s political system  – whether towards enduring democracy or continued instability.


THE RETURN of Pervez Musharraf to Pakistan at the risk to his own life has brought attention to the upcoming national elections, which the former president is determined to contest as saviour of the nation despite his unpopularity. Indeed, the 11 May 2013 elections will be a milestone in Pakistan’s constitutional history after having passed an important political moment on 16 March 2013 when both the civilian government and parliament completed a full five-year term in office (2008-13).

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EU-China Economic Relations

Better news for EU-China economic relations?

By John Farnell

4 April 2013

Despite regular reports about trade disputes, the EU and China today enjoy a closer and more diverse economic relationship than ever before and the trend is upwards.

China is the EU’s second biggest export market and likely to remain one of the fastest growing. China has so far avoided a “hard landing”, there has been no property crash, no widespread social unrest despite a downturn in exports and domestic demand is picking up. And the EU and China are committing to cooperation in areas that matter economically: on investment, research and innovation, environment and energy policy.

Since the March National People’s Congress there may be additional grounds for optimism. If the early signals from the new Chinese leadership about economic reform are carried through, despite the formidable obstacles, then there is hope for positive change in the framework conditions for EU-China relations.

But action on the EU side is also necessary for that to happen.

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ASEAN–EU Relations: From Regional Integration Assistance to Security Significance?

By Anja Jetschke and Clara Portela

1 April 2013

The Foreign Ministers of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) held their annual summit from 17 to 18 November 2012 in Phnom Penh, Cambodia.

European Union (EU) decision-makers have paid relatively little attention to the ASEAN region despite entering into a series of important agreements with ASEAN as a whole and with individual ASEAN member states: In July 2012 the EU entered into the Treaty of Amity and Cooperation in Southeast Asia (TAC), an important regulatory framework for the region. In October 2012, it finished negotiating a partnership and cooperation agreement (PCA) with Vietnam, and in December of the same year, it signed a free trade agreement (FTA) with Singapore. But despite these milestones, the EU generally has played a minor role in the region.

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