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EU and ASEAN countries hail strong trade and investment relations at latest bilateral consultation




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The European Union and ASEAN member states met virtually on 14 September for the Seventeenth ASEAN Economic Ministers (AEM)-EU Trade Commissioner Consultations. The consultations were co-chaired by Dato Amin Liew Abdullah, minister at the prime minister's office, Finance and Economy II Minister Brunei Darussalam and Executive Vice President Valdis Dombrovskis. The meeting hailed the strong trade and investment relations between the two regions and endorsed the ASEAN-EU Trade and Investment Work Programme 2020-2021, noting the progress in implementing the activities outlined therein.

The meeting appreciated the continuous support from the EU to the ASEAN Economic Community, through various programmes and initiatives under the ASEAN Regional Integration Support by the EU (ARISE Plus) and the Enhanced Regional EU-ASEAN Dialogue Instrument (E-READI).

The co-chairs agreed to make further progress on the Framework setting out the parameters of a future ASEAN-EU Free Trade Agreement, while reaffirming its commitment to an open, free, inclusive, transparent, rules-based, and non-discriminatory multilateral trading system. Lastly, and despite the profound concern regarding the adverse impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic in the world, the AEM Ministers and Executive Vice President Dombrovskis welcomed the improved outlook of global economic and trade growth, stressing the importance of closer economic engagement to leverage on the momentum, and reaffirmed their commitment to strengthen economic cooperation between ASEAN and the EU. The full statement is available here.



High Representative/Vice President Josep Borrell to visit Indonesia and ASEAN



From today (1 June) to Friday 4 June, EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy/Vice President of the European Commission, Josep Borrell (pictured) will visit Indonesia. He will hold discussions with the Indonesian government and will have meetings at the headquarters of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). The visit demonstrates the EU's wish to deepen relations with Indonesia, one of the world's largest democracies and economies, which will hold the G20 Presidency in 2022 and the ASEAN Chairmanship in 2023. The visit also comes in light of the upgrade of EU-ASEAN relations to a Strategic Partnership, the recent adoption of Council Conclusions on an EU Strategy for Co-operation in the Indo-Pacific, and ongoing efforts to address the military coup and the ensuing political crisis in Myanmar. In Jakarta, High Representative/Vice-President Borrell will meet President Joko Widodo, Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi as well as Defence Minister Prabowo Subianto.

He will also have meetings at the Indonesian Parliament with Meutya Hafid, Chair of the Commission on Foreign Relations, and Fadli Zon, Chairman of the Committee for Inter-Parliamentary Cooperation. The High Representative and Foreign Minister Marsudi will deliver joint press statements after their meeting on 2 June. While in Indonesia, the High Representative will also meet the Secretary-General of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, Lim Jock Hoi, and the ASEAN Committee of Permanent Representatives. High Representative Borrell will visit the ASEAN Coordinating Centre for Humanitarian Assistance, inaugurate the new premises of the EU Delegation to Indonesia and oversee the official upgrade of the EU Mission to ASEAN to a fully-fledged EU Delegation. He will also give a speech at the Centre for Strategic and International Studies on the EU Strategy for Co-operation in the Indo-Pacific. Audiovisual footage of the visit will be provided by Europe by Satellite. More information is available in a full press release.


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Europe-#Asia relations become a priority in the age of #Trump



Trilateral_event_coverimage copyAsian governments are still trying to make sense of Donald Trump’s unpredictable approach to their region, writes Shada Islam.

After lambasting both Tokyo and Beijing over their trade and currency policies, the new President of the United States has made constructive contact with the leaders of both Japan and China.

But conflicting statements by American policymakers indicate that Washington will take time to craft a lucid, well-thought-out policy towards Asia.

As America reassesses its Asia policy, Europe must redefine its own relationship with the region. Asia’s economic growth continues to be strong, but political antagonisms and rivalries are on the rise.

North Korea’s recent firing of an intermediate-range ballistic missile into the sea off its east coast, the first such test since the US election, is one important indication of Asia’s significance for global security.

European Union foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini’s recent visit to the US, where she discussed the future of the Iran nuclear deal with the new administration, is a welcome sign of Europe’s proactive stance on global challenges.

The EU should show similar determination to craft a standalone policy towards Asia which, despite America’s dominant presence and China’s growing clout, still looks to Europe for trade, investment, technology and security support.

America has been both a rival and a vital ally as Europe has expanded its ties with Asian countries. It’s time now for the EU to further enhance its own distinct trade, political and security profile in the region.

Brexit and the EU’s many other crisis and economic woes have tarnished some of Europe’s lustre. But here are three ways in which Europe and Asia can work together to ease some of the anxieties of the Trump era.

First, Europeans and Asians have a common interest in working together on issues such as climate change, preserving the Iran deal and safeguarding multilateral institutions, including the United Nations.

In addition to its soft power credentials in areas such as peace-building, preventive diplomacy and conflict management, the EU is also a valuable partner for Asia in areas such as maritime security (including anti-piracy operations), counter-terrorism and fighting cybercrime.

A more visible European security profile in Asia will have the added benefit of helping the EU’S long-standing desire to join the East Asia Summit, an annual forum of Asian countries that since 2011 has included the US and Russia.

Second, given America’s decision to pull out of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade agreement and its disinterest in the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), the EU should work harder to finally clinch pending free trade agreements with Japan, India and individual South-East Asian countries.

As EU Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmström underlined recently, trade is essential for employment – with some 31 million European jobs dependent on exports – and a way to spread good values and standards.

Brussels should therefore get serious about negotiating a free trade pact with the ten-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and speed up trade talks with Australia and New Zealand.

Importantly, the EU and Asians should join forces to inject new life into the World Trade Organization.

Third, the EU should make a serious effort to upgrade its bilateral relations with Asia’s key players and regional organisations.

Brussels has worked hard over the years to engage in a sustained manner with China, Japan, Korea, India and ASEAN. These links are significant and impressive but often get muddied by small irritants. They must be given more resilience, strategic substance and direction.

Europe should take a closer look at other regional initiatives in Asia such as trilateral cooperation efforts by Japan, China and Korea (whose relationships with the Trump administration will be the subject of a Friends of Europe debate on 22 February).

While disagreements over historical issues and North Korea have long strained relations between the three countries, Japanese, Chinese and Korean leaders have held several trilateral summits since 2008 and are currently reassessing ties to take account of the new US administration.

Another summit is being mooted while the Trilateral Cooperation Secretariat in Seoul continues to work on its mandate to promote peace and common prosperity between the three countries.

In addition, in today’s uncertain and volatile world, ASEM (the Asia-Europe Meeting), which brings together more than 50 European and Asian countries, is needed more than ever to deepen connections and networks.

The EU’s Global Strategy calls for a deepening of economic diplomacy and an increased security role for the EU in Asia. That commitment should be translated urgently into action.

Europe’s history and experience make it imperative that it uses its influence to prevent the rise – both at home and abroad – of unwise nationalisms, destructive conflicts and confrontation.


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Kazakhstan: 2050 modernization strategy



- 2014, 4 17.01.14By Colin Stevens.


This month (January 2014), Kazakhstan's leadership declared its most ambitious strategic plan up to the middle of the 21st century, intending Kazakhstan to join the 30 most-developed world economies. Similar long-term strategies are followed by the county’s neighbours – China, Malaysia and Turkey.

"Forthcoming decades will bring many well-known challenges, as well as numerous unexpected situations, new crises in global markets and world politics," said President Nursultan A. Nazarbayev (pictured), addressing the nation on 17January: "There will be no 'easy ride' in the 21st century."

- 2014, 1 17.01.14Although the concept of a ‘developed country’ is under continuous modification, there are certain indicators to define this category - the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) represents the basis. They are 34 economies producing more than 60% of global GDP. Brazil, China, India, Indonesia, Russia and South Africa are on the doorstep of joining, manifesting high investment rates, research and innovation achievements, high productivity and considerable share of small and medium enterprises, all resulting in high living standards.

Kazakhstan is looking forward to apply the OECD standards, persuing its own economic long-terms plans to reach 4% GDP growth, developing knowledge-based economy to raise non-oil exports up to two thirds. Within this framework, the accents are placed on acceleration of industrial and innovative methods in traditional mining sectors, engaging knowledge-based production using the latest scientific achievements in electronic, technologies, telecommunications and equipment.

Next to the traditional mining sector, the reform is awaiting agriculture to shift from large-scale to medium and small enterprises, providing financing resources to entrepreneurs directly, without intermediaries - farmers will receive more protection in a system of guarantees and insurances. With its vast steppa, ideal for cattle grassing, Kazakhstan has a natural richness to become a leading meat- and dairy-products exporter in the region.

Its knowledge/science-based economy is pillar of success however, to accelerate its modernization, the country needs to use the full potential of foreign direct investment (FDA).

"In co-operation with the foreign companies we need to set up design and engineering centres," Nazarbayev continued, inviting transnational companies operating in major oil, gas and mining facilities to establish profitable production in Kazakhstan, offering governmental support in providing favorable conditions for foreign businesses to produce equipment in Kazakhstan,  instead of importing.

The spin-off production sites of large international companies have been welcomed to Nazarbayev University in Astana and ‘Alatau’ Information Technology Park in Almaty.

Inviting the West to co-operate, Kasakhstanies are not overlooking the advantages of their geographical location in finalizing the construction of the Western Europe-Western China corridor. Railways to Turkmenistan and Iran reaching the Persian Gulf are already in place, but infrastructures reaching the sea remain a challenge for the Central Asian state.

The giant Zhezkazghan-Shalkar-Beineu railway project will reach out to the Caspian from the west and the Pacific from the east.

The openness of the country translates not only into the infrastructures, but also in education, encouraging high-school graduates towards trilinguism, Kazakh, Russian and English, to ensure the country's integration into the global community.

And no less attention is being paid to the development of the judiciary, as the government is conscious of the necessity of creating the highest-standard legal system, guaranteeing entrepreneurs an efficient mechanism for dispute resolution within the context of the rule of law.

The first stage of the realization of the 2050 strategy is planned to be achieved by 2030: "This is feasible. South Korea and Singapore followed this path," said Nazarbayev. "Kazakhstanies will not miss this ‘window of opportunity’ in the XXI century."- 2014, 7 17.01.14



Colin Stevens



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