Asia wants a stronger global role for Europe

Federica Mogherini
Federica Mogherini

The huge uncertainty surrounding the future of US foreign, security and trade policy opens new horizons for the EU in most parts of Asia, writes Fraser Cameron, Director of the EU-Asia Centre and a Senior Advisor to Cambre Associates, a Brussels-based, integrated public relations and public affairs consultancy.

Asked in Washington last Friday (10 February) whether the EU was ready to take on a greater leadership role, Federica Mogerhini gave a clear answer. ‘Yes, we are ready’ said the EU’s foreign policy chief. Given the international criticism and uncertainty surrounding Donald Trump’s entry into the White House could this indeed be an opportunity for the EU to come of age on the global stage? At first sight the idea may sound far-fetched what with Brexit, the refugee crisis and the rise of populism throughout Europe. But the EU remains the largest market in the world, the largest provider of development assistance and the strongest supporter of the multilateral system. The European political system has been shaken up but to date there are no populist parties governing any major member state. It is this boring reliability that other powers, especially in Asia, are beginning to recognise as a strength, especially given the unpredictability surrounding the future of US foreign policy.

In Asia, despite recent reassurances, they wonder if long-standing alliances will still hold and are perplexed as to why Washington is prepared to cede economic leadership to China by tearing up the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP). In Beijing, they wonder if the bipartisan One China policy will really remain intact and whether Trump is planning a trade war with China. In Europe the questions concern the implications of a potential US rapprochement with Russia – at what cost? Will Trump adhere to the Iran nuclear deal? Will he maintain America’s commitment to the Paris climate change agreement? And will he turn his back on free trade and multilateral institutions? Given all this uncertainty it is not surprising that many countries are beating a path to Brussels to shore up their relations with the EU. Japan has signalled that after years of desultory talks it now wants to conclude an FTA with the EU as soon as possible. Officials on both sides are targeting late spring to clinch a deal. Even in the midst of the present domestic turmoil Korea is sending senior envoys to Brussels with the message that Seoul wants to work more closely with Brussels. Its parliament has just ratified an agreement to allow for closer political and security cooperation with the EU. It is likely to join the EU’s Operation Atalanta in the Gulf of Aden in the coming weeks.

And perhaps most surprisingly China now looks to the EU as a guarantor of the rules-based multilateral system. Who would have forecast even a year ago that Beijing and Brussels would be pressing Washington not to renege on its climate change commitments? In addition, China has hinted that it wishes to speed up the bilateral investment treaty negotiations with the EU as a result of the protectionist voices coming out of Washington. Several countries in SE Asia including Indonesia and the Philippines are now keen to accelerate FTA negotiations with the EU while India, Pakistan, Australia and New Zealand are also ready to deepen ties with the EU. All this activity shows that Asia still regards the EU as a serious player. But for this goodwill to be sustained the EU will have to continue to show up in the region and do a better job of speaking with one voice including on sensitive issues such as the South China Sea.

Mogherini understands the increasing importance of Asia for the EU and has scheduled a number of visits this year including India, China, Myanmar and possibly Australia and New Zealand. She will be promoting inter alia the EU’s Global Strategy, which with its emphasis on a comprehensive approach to security, provides a stark contrast to the nationalist-isolationist, transactional approach of the Trump foreign policy team. The huge uncertainty surrounding the future of US foreign, security and trade policy thus opens new horizons for the EU. The EU now has to agree and promote its own interests in a more coherent manner. It must reaffirm its commitment to strengthening the multilateral system, supporting a normative agenda (and not just let Angela Merkel speak out for basic values) and demonstrate its understanding of Asian concerns and interests. The reward could be a new mutually beneficial EU-Asia relationship that provides two solid pillars in a world facing so much uncertainty in America.

3395 views


More Russian news

One killed, 11 wounded in Dagestan after teenager brings grenade to school

One killed, 11 wounded in Dagestan after teenager brings grenade to school

A grenade that killed one teenager and wounded 11 more at a school in Russia’s North Caucasian republic of Dagestan in the settlement of Agvali was brought to school by a schoolboy, a spokesman for the Dagestani Interior Ministry …

Putin: laws must be based on reality

Putin: laws must be based on reality

Russian President Vladimir Putin met with members of the Council of Legislators in the Tauride Palace in St. Petersburg. Putin has endorsed the initiative to continue the fight against corruption, but emphasized …

Why does EU impose sanctions only against Russia?

Why does EU impose sanctions only against Russia?

Ukraine has been constantly avoiding direct dialogue with the self-proclaimed Donetsk and Lugansk People’s Republics, but the European Union impose sanctions over the implementation of the Minsk agreements only against Russia, the …

Kremlin: Russia respects choice of French people

Kremlin: Russia respects choice of French people

Russia is ready to work on building up good relations with France and respects the choice of the French people made during the presidential election, Kremlin Spokesman Dmitry Peskov said. "We support building up …

Isik: Putin and Erdogan may discuss contract on S-400 missile systems

Isik: Putin and Erdogan may discuss contract on S-400 missile systems

Russian President Vladimir Putin and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan are expected to discuss a contract on buying S-400 missile systems in Sochi on May 3, Turkey’s Defense Minister Fikri …

Moscow holding talks between Lavrov and Mogherini

Moscow holding talks between Lavrov and Mogherini

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov is holding talks with the EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Federica Mogherini in Moscow. The agenda of their talks will include a …

Russia boosts military spending

Russia boosts military spending

Russia became the world's third largest military spender in 2016, the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) said in a report. Russia's military spending was $69.2 billion in 2016, a 5.9% rise over 2015, the …

Economic optimism prevails in Russia

Economic optimism prevails in Russia

The share of Russians expecting economic stabilization in the near future increased to 32.4% in March, according to the results of the RANEPA survey, the Izvestia newspaper reported. In March 2015, it was expected by 24% of respondents, …

Russian S-500 to engage targets at earth#039s outer layer

Russian S-500 to engage targets at earth's outer layer

Russia's next-generation S-500 air defense system would be able to engage targets at the upper layer of the atmosphere, the chief engineer of defense corporation Almaz-Antey Pavel Sozinov said. He said that …

Tillerson briefs Poroshenko on sanctions imposed on Russia

Tillerson briefs Poroshenko on sanctions imposed on Russia

US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said in a phone conversation with Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko that the sanctions imposed on Russia would remain in place, US Department of State acting spokesman …

more Russian news