Phnom Penh summit highlights growing European attention to Asia

Phnom Penh summit highlights growing European attention to Asia

While many headlines grabbed the headlines in 2021 because of increased US attention to Asia under President Joe Biden, the growing attention Europe is giving to the growing economic region. the fastest in the world is often overlooked.

The latest signal of European intention towards Asia comes with the Asia-Europe meeting, or ASEM, to be held in the Cambodian capital Phnom Penh on November 25-26. Originally designed by Singapore and France, this forum now includes 53 partners, including 21 Asian countries, 30 European nations, plus the Association of Southeast Asian Nations and EU institutions.

Postponed last year due to the pandemic, the meeting will promote political and economic cooperation between the two regions on the basis of mutual respect and equality, while strengthening multilateralism and encouraging post-pandemic recovery. Collectively, the two mega-regions account for around 60% of gross domestic product, population and world trade, with significant potential going forward.

The underlying goal of Europe’s engagement with Asia is to create a competitive advantage over other world powers, including the United States. In addition to the ASEM summit, the EU holds annual conferences with emerging market giants, such as India and China, as well as major industrialized countries, such as Japan, to achieve this goal.

It is already paying dividends. Take the example of India, the largest democracy in the world and keen to forge stronger ties. Mainland Europe is already India’s biggest trade and investment partner, which is why a new bilateral trade deal being discussed is a key potential prize for both sides. There are broader reasons behind the converging interests, including a growing need to develop shared defense forums, such as maritime security in the Indian Ocean, where 40 percent of bilateral trade passes.

If India is a leading European target in Asia, it is by no means the only one. This has been highlighted in the new European strategy for cooperation with the region, approved this year by the Council of the EU, which advocates stability and an “open and fair” environment for trade and investment.

Inevitably, China is also on Europe’s radar here, despite the reluctance of relations since the pandemic. At the top of the EU-China agenda is a new comprehensive investment agreement which, although approved last December, has yet to be ratified.

The EU-China dialogue is multifaceted, with both sides keen to focus on areas of common interest and cooperation, including the fight against climate change. The reason the EU-China discussions on global warming are generally so cooperative is that, fundamentally, the two share the vision of a prosperous and energy-secure future in a stable climate, and recognize the need for a bilateral collaboration to achieve this.

Their 2015 global warming accord, for example, stepped up cooperation in national mitigation policies, carbon markets, low-carbon cities, greenhouse gas emissions from the aviation and maritime industries. and hydrofluorocarbons. China’s planned investment in the green economy is huge in the coming years, a fact that Europe increasingly recognizes, and there are substantial business opportunities for technology and science companies in the region, which are leaders in much of the clean technology agenda.

Yet while Europe’s relations with emerging markets are crucial, the bloc’s ties with industrialized countries are also important. The EU benefits from a burgeoning bilateral agenda with Japan, and the two powers have strengthened their leadership in international trade and rules-based economics.

Japan remains the world’s third-largest economy and one of Europe’s main export markets in Asia. In the EU, it is estimated that around 600,000 jobs are now linked to bilateral trade, with around 74,000 European companies exporting to Japan.

This basic economic program received a boost in 2019 when the EU-Japan Free Trade Agreement entered into force, covering around a third of global GDP and nearly 650 million people. The deal took years to be accepted, with headlines captured by the removal of almost all duties on Japanese and European imports, respectively.

Beyond the numbers, however, both sides stressed that the trade treaty is also important because it is based on values ​​and principles. In part, this has to do with the fact that the deal is the first to be concluded by the EU which includes language supporting the Paris climate agreement.

Concretely, there is a commitment to support the Treaty of Paris by making a “positive contribution” to reducing global warming by reducing greenhouse gas emissions. This follows an initiative by the European Commission to try to ensure that all future EU trade agreements include a reference to meeting the Paris targets.

These three diverse examples show why Europe sees such a massive opportunity in Asia. From its emerging markets to its industrialized economies, the region is a growing economic and political priority for the EU and other European states as they attempt to gain the upper hand over other great powers in a bid to create a competitive advantage at home. post-pandemic era.

  • Andrew Hammond is a partner at LSE IDEAS at the London School of Economics

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed by the authors of this section are their own and do not necessarily reflect the views of Arab News

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