Asia Europe Meeting (ASEM): A partnership for the 21st Century

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Asia Europe Meeting (ASEM): A partnership for the 21st Century

Summary

Asia-Europe trade deal mooted at Friends of Europe conference

The European Union could move towards a free trade agreement (FTA) with the ten-member Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) in the next two years, according to EU Commissioner for Trade Karel De Gucht .

De Gucht told a Friends of Europe conference on Asia-Europe relations (ASEM) on July 8 that the bilateral FTAS being negotiating by the EU with several individual ASEAN states could lead to a region-to-region deal.  ASEAN is working on forging a frontier-free single market by the end of 2015..

“Bilateral relationships are really only part of the equation,” the EU trade chief said. “Europe has promised to the ASEAN partners that once we have sufficient building blocks of free trade agreements with individual ASEAN members, we will then move to a region-to-region free trade agreement. That might happen in the coming two years, if possible.”

The conference came amid preparations for the 10th Asia Europe Meeting (ASEM) Summit this autumn, when delegates from the group’s 51 partners will meet in Milan to discuss topics such as economic growth, jobs and inequality.

“Many Asian societies have gone through unprecedented changes over the past 20 years,” President Herman Van Rompuy of the European Council said in a video address. “New interactions have developed with Europe: we are more linked and interdependent than ever before. And this also translates into increased solidarity when facing common challenges of development, governance, environment or security.”

Panellists agreed that, while Asia and Europe already enjoy a booming economic relationship, ASEM needs an upgrade. Beyond trade, they could cooperate even more in security and use increased people-to-people exchange to deepen links in education and other fields.

Europe is directly affected by Asia’s rise, said David O’Sullivan, Chief Operating Officer of the European External Action Service (EEAS), as Asia has now surpassed NAFTA to become the EU’s main trading partner, accounting for a third of total trade. At the same time, Asia’s production and supply chains are becoming increasingly integrated, but nationalism is also rising – without yet an adequate set of rules and institutions to manage these political and security challenges.

“Freedom of navigation in the South China Sea, with 50% of world trade in tonnage passing through, naturally affects EU interests,” he said. “So it is logical that the EU builds up its engagement in and with Asia.”

ASEM does not always attract much attention, but it has the potential to become an important channel for stronger Asia-Europe ties.. This depends, however, on making ASEM more interesting, innovative and restoring its original informality.

“Despite our efforts to promote the understanding of people through our projects we have found there is a perception gap between people in Asia and Europe,” said Zhang Yan, Executive Director of the Asia-Europe Foundation (ASEF), which was set up by ASEM. “I have the feeling that most Asians and Europeans still tend to pay more attention to the United States of America than to each other.”

One area ASEM could help is in promoting business contacts especially for smaller  countries in both regions.  . “Big countries like China and India do not need any help,” said Sok Siphana, an Advisor to the Royal Government of Cambodia. “Smaller countries collectively see this as very crucial. We want to catch up, but we cannot do it on our own. There are business opportunities, and we want to have access to them.”

Moves to promote exchange for students have been made under “Erasmus+”, which has replaced the old Erasmus Mundus, said Androulla Vassiliou, EU Commissioner for Education, Culture, Multilingualism, Sport, Media and Youth. Now, students from ASEM countries can benefit from so-called “credit mobility”: while remaining registered at a university in their home country, they have access to scholarships for periods of study lasting from three to 12 months.

“I think it is clear that all of these exchanges of people and ideas bring enormous benefits to everyone involved,” she said. “A greater awareness of other cultures, their traditions, values and languages, is surely one of the most lasting benefits.  And in a globalising economy, this is a skill that employers value more and more.”

ASEM can also facilitate the exchange of concrete information – such as how best to recycle heat, said Simon Wong Wie Kuen, Deputy Secretary at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Singapore and a Senior Official of ASEM. “For many of us in developing countries, we look at Europe to see how I can contribute to our targets in a very practical way,” he said.

One reason the relationship has such potential is the similarities between Europe and Asia, and the EU’s role as a model for regional reconciliation and integration, said O’Sullivan.

“The way we operate internally and hence project externally is perhaps not very glamorous,” he said. “Our rhetoric is rarely stirring: we don’t do shock and awe. But perhaps that is the point. Our role is not as a super power but a super partner.

 

Asia-Europe meeting.

About

About

ASEM is increasingly relevant in a rapidly-globalising world. Working in tandem Asia and Europe have enhanced clout. Taken together, both sides represent almost 60 % of the world population, 52% of global GDP and 68% of world trade. ASEM has weathered the passage of time relatively well, retaining its key asset, namely that contacts between partners are informal, comprehensive and regular.

Schedule

Schedule

Welcome coffee and registration of participants
SESSION I: Enhanced political and security cooperation
Expand SESSION I: Enhanced political and security cooperation

ASEM is increasingly relevant in a rapidly-globalising world. Working in tandem Asia and Europe have enhanced clout. Taken together, both sides represent almost 60 % of the world population, 52% of global GDP and 68% of world trade. ASEM has weathered the passage of time relatively well, retaining its key asset, namely that contacts between partners are informal, comprehensive and regular.

As preparations intensify for the ASEM Summit in autumn, how can both sides help to enhance the credibility and legitimacy of this multilateral platform? Is it possible to simplify and streamline ASEM meetings to ensure more informality and networking opportunities? Should the focus shift to projects and “deliverables”? What are the prospects of cooperation on regional issues, ranging from developments in the East China and South China Seas, the situation in the Korean peninsula and in Myanmar? Can ASEM serve as an effective platform to develop concrete proposals to discuss issues like human rights and tackle non-traditional security issues such counter-piracy, climate change, disaster relief, water resources management and energy security?

Special Video address

Herman Van Rompuy

Belgian Minister of State, former president of the European Council and former Belgian prime minister

Keynote address

David O’Sullivan

Chief Operating Officer of the European External Action Service (EEAS)

Speakers

Bart Gaens

Senior Research Fellow at the Finnish Institute of International Affairs

Andrea Perugini

Deputy Director General and Principal Director for Asia at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Italy

Sarun Charoensuwan

Deputy Secretary at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Singapore and ASEM Senior Official

Simon Wong Wie Kuen

Deputy Secretary at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Singapore and ASEM Senior Official

Yeo Lay Hwee

Director of Nanyang Technological University’s European Union Centre

Coffee break
SESSION II: Building on economic interdependence
Expand SESSION II: Building on economic interdependence

Economic interdependence between Asia and Europe is growing. Trade between the EU and Asian ASEM countries is currently valued at almost 900 billion € a year and European companies are leading investors in Asia. The two regions are also bound by their search for strong, job-generating, sustainable and inclusive growth. ASEM leaders have reaffirmed their commitment to enhancing economic cooperation between the two sides.

So what is being done to revive discussions on trade and investment within ASEM and strengthen inter-regional financial cooperation? What role can the private sector, including SMEs, play in broadening investment and trade flows? What steps should be taken to build a more conducive environment to support the implementation of Public-Private-Partnerships (PPP) and boost inter-regional connectivity? How can Asia and Europe improve their collaboration and coordination on WTO-related issues? How can both regions share experiences and work together to improve labour standards?

Keynote address

Karel De Gucht

EU Commissioner for Trade

Speakers

Marina Durano

Assistant Professor of Economics at the University of the Philippines-Diliman

Peter Kell

Principal Adviser to Deputy Secretary of the Americas and Asia Group, Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade, New Zealand

Eric Poskin

Founder & CEO, Epoksy

Michael Schaefer

Chairman of the Board of the BMW Stiftung Herbert Quandt

Sok Siphana

Advisor to the Royal Government of Cambodia

Anil Wadhwa

Secretary-East at the Ministry of External Affairs, India

Moderator

Shada Islam

Managing Director at New Horizons Project

Networking lunch
SESSION III: Putting the spotlight on people
Expand SESSION III: Putting the spotlight on people

Foreign relations are no longer the exclusive domain of governments. In today’s inter-connected world, non-state actors are increasingly active and influential in global affairs. Several initiatives have been developed within the ASEM framework to foster dialogue and better understanding between the two regions, particularly in the education and cultural sectors. However, reviving the Asia-Europe relationship will require stronger efforts to ensure even more involvement of the public, civil society, and academia – including through the media and the internet.

What role can ASEM play in improving mutual understanding between Europe and Asia? Has ASEM proved successful in promoting people-to-people contacts and strengthening of cultural links between the two regions? How can the ASEM Interfaith Dialogue be strengthened to ensure it promotes greater inter-regional social cohesion? Is there a role for young people in ASEM? What programmes have been developed and what else should be done, especially to promote the role of women, youth unemployment and university and student exchanges?

Keynote address

Androulla Vassiliou

EU Commissioner for Education, Culture and Youth (2010-2014) and former Trustee of Friends of Europe

Speakers

Nay Aung

Founder of Oway, Myanmar

Sanda Liepina

State Secretary at the Ministry of Education and Science, Republic of Latvia

Jehanne Roccas

Director Asia and Oceania at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Belgium

Richard Werly

European Affairs and France Correspondent at Le Temps

Zhang Yan

Executive Director of the Asia-Europe Foundation (ASEF)

Moderator

Shada Islam

Managing Director at New Horizons Project

Speakers

Speakers

Herman Van Rompuy
Herman Van Rompuy

Belgian Minister of State, former president of the European Council and former Belgian prime minister

Show more information on Herman Van Rompuy

Herman Van Rompuy is a Belgian and European politician. He began his career in Belgian national politics, becoming Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Budget and was later elected to the Belgian Chamber of Representatives, finally serving as Prime Minister of Belgium. Praised as a consensus-builder, Van Rompuy was chosen unanimously to become the first full-time President of the European Council.

Photo of David O’Sullivan
David O’Sullivan

Chief Operating Officer of the European External Action Service (EEAS)

Show more information on David O’Sullivan

O’Sullivan, as part of the European External Action Service (EEAS), has contributed to enhance a stronger partnership between Europe and Asia and has promoted it through a high number of official visits to the Asiatic region. He was European Commission Director General for Trade and before that, Secretary General of the European Commission, Head of Cabinet of Commission President Romano Prodi and Director General for Education and Training. He also has extensive experience on EU social and employment policy.

Bart Gaens
Bart Gaens

Senior Research Fellow at the Finnish Institute of International Affairs

Show more information on Bart Gaens

Bart Gaens is an experienced academic whose research has focussed on major power relations in East Asia, EU-Asia relations, and the Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM). He previously led a research project on the EU’s relations with Asia at the University of Helsinki Network for European Studies and worked as an advisor in the Finnish Ministry for Foreign Affairs during preparations for the ASEM6 Summit. He has published extensively on Europe-Asia interregional relations, with special focus on the ASEM process.

Photo of Andrea Perugini
Andrea Perugini

Deputy Director General and Principal Director for Asia at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Italy

Show more information on Andrea Perugini

Perugini is the current representative of Italy in the Asia-Europe Senior Officials’ Meeting. Prior to his current position, Perugini was Ambassador of Italy to Vietnam. He also represented Italy at the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), worked at the Italian Embassies in China and Angola, as well as at the Permanent Delegation to the Conference on Disarmament of the United Nations.

Photo of Sarun Charoensuwan
Sarun Charoensuwan

Deputy Secretary at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Singapore and ASEM Senior Official

Show more information on Sarun Charoensuwan

Throughout his career, Wong has held several positions at the Singapore Foreign Service at headquarters and abroad. He has worked at the Singapore Embassies in Seoul and Beijing. As Ambassador to Vietnam, Wong received the Friendship Order for his active contribution in fostering cooperation between the two countries. He is currently the representative of Singapore in the Asia-Europe Senior Officials’ Meeting.

Photo of Simon Wong Wie Kuen
Simon Wong Wie Kuen

Deputy Secretary at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Singapore and ASEM Senior Official

Show more information on Simon Wong Wie Kuen

Throughout his career, Wong has held several positions at the Singapore Foreign Service at headquarters and abroad. He has worked at the Singapore Embassies in Seoul and Beijing. As Ambassador to Vietnam, Wong received the Friendship Order for his active contribution in fostering cooperation between the two countries. He is currently the representative of Singapore in the Asia-Europe Senior Officials’ Meeting.

Photo of Yeo Lay Hwee
Yeo Lay Hwee

Director of Nanyang Technological University’s European Union Centre

Show more information on Yeo Lay Hwee

An international relations expert, Yeo Lay Hwee’s research interests revolve around comparative regionalism, multilateralism and governance networks. She has written extensively on issues pertaining to Asia-Europe relations in general, and specifically on the ASEM process and EU-ASEAN relations. In addition to leading the European Union Centre, she is also Council Secretary at the Singapore Institute of International Affairs, Adjunct Fellow at the S Rajaratnam School of International Studies, and Adjunct Faculty at the Singapore Management University. Yeo is also a member of the Scientific Committee of a multi-year research project on ‘Trends in Global Governance and Europe’s Role’.

Photo of Karel  De Gucht
Karel De Gucht

EU Commissioner for Trade

Show more information on Karel De Gucht

De Gucht’s career has spanned widely across European and Belgian politics. During his mandate as Commissioner, De Gucht has travelled across Asia in an attempt to boost trade ties with the region. He has previously served as EU Commissioner for Development & Humanitarian Aid, Belgian Deputy Prime Minister, Minister for Foreign and European Affairs, as well as Minister for International Trade.

Photo of Marina Durano
Marina Durano

Assistant Professor of Economics at the University of the Philippines-Diliman

Show more information on Marina Durano

Durano is an academic and a feminist activist who has spent more than 15 years engaged in strengthening women’s political involvement. Durano has worked for several organisations including Development Alternatives with Women for a New Era (DAWN) and the International Gender and Trade Network.

Photo of Peter Kell
Peter Kell

Principal Adviser to Deputy Secretary of the Americas and Asia Group, Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade, New Zealand

Show more information on Peter Kell

Kell is the Senior Official of New Zealand for the Asia-Europe meeting. Previous to his current position, Kell worked at the Embassy of New Zealand in Tokyo, at the New Zealand High Comission in London, at the New Zealand High Comission in the Solomon Islands, and at the New Zealand Ministry of Foreign Affairs holding several positions. Kell is the Senior Official of New Zealand for the Asia-Europe meeting.

Photo of Eric Poskin
Eric Poskin

Founder & CEO, Epoksy

Show more information on Eric Poskin

Posky holds an extensive career in the private and in the public sector as strategic communication expert. Mithra Pharmaceuticals, the Directorate General for Health and Consumers of the European Commission and the Federal Government of Belgium, are among his experience. In 2011, he founded Epoksy, a company specialised in brands communication.

Photo of Michael Schaefer
Michael Schaefer

Chairman of the Board of the BMW Stiftung Herbert Quandt

Show more information on Michael Schaefer

Schaefer has been the German Ambassador to the People’s Republic of China. His earlier career achievements comprise positions at the German Embassy in Singapore, the German Permanent Mission to the office of the United Nations in Geneva and at the Federal Foreign Office in Berlin, for which he was the Political Director.

Photo of Sok Siphana
Sok Siphana

Advisor to the Royal Government of Cambodia

Show more information on Sok Siphana

Siphana is currently the Cambodian Senior Representative for the Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM). Prior to this, he served as Secretary of State at the Ministry of Commerce in Cambodia and held the position of Director at the International Trade Center (ITC) in Geneva. He also works as Chairman of the Board of Cambodia Development Resource Institute (CDRI), a research institute, and as a Managing Partner of a law and consulting firm.

Photo of Anil Wadhwa
Anil Wadhwa

Secretary-East at the Ministry of External Affairs, India

Show more information on Anil Wadhwa

Wadhwa is the representative of India for the Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM) and was in charge of the organisation of the last ASEM meeting held in India. His previous diplomatic assignments include the Commission of India in Hong Kong, the Embassy of India in Beijing, the United Nations in Geneva, the Embassy of India in Beijing and the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) in The Hague.

Photo of Nay Aung
Nay Aung

Founder of Oway, Myanmar

Show more information on Nay Aung

Aung is a business entrepreneur who recently launched Oway, the first online travel agency in Myanmar. Prior to that, Aung was involved in a start-up that was eventually bought by Yahoo, and he spent nearly four years working at Google. Aung studied at the University of Arizona, the London School of Economics and the Stanford University.

Photo of Sanda Liepina
Sanda Liepina

State Secretary at the Ministry of Education and Science, Republic of Latvia

Show more information on Sanda Liepina

Liepina began her career as a Legal Adviser for the Latvian Investment and Development Agency. She worked as an independent legal and business environment consultant and for the World Bank at the Investment Climate Department. Furthermore, Leipina has held positions at the International Finance Corporation (IFC) first for Russia, Georgia and Latvia and then for Vietnam.

Photo of Jehanne Roccas
Jehanne Roccas

Director Asia and Oceania at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Belgium

Show more information on Jehanne Roccas

Roccas is the representative for Belgium in the Asia-Europe Senior Officials’ Meeting. She is an experienced diplomat who has held a variety of senior positions abroad including at the Embassies of Belgium in Spain and Croatia and at the Federal Public Service of Foreign Affairs, Foreign Trade and Development Cooperation of Belgium in Russia.

Photo of Zhang Yan
Zhang Yan

Executive Director of the Asia-Europe Foundation (ASEF)

Show more information on Zhang Yan

Zhang is a veteran diplomat with a broad experience in countries such as Switzerland, the United States, Singapore, Austria and India. He is currently the Executive Director of the ASEF, an organisation that promotes greater mutual understanding between Asia and Europe through intellectual, cultural and people-to-people exchanges. He held the position of Ambassador of the People’s Republic of China to the Republic of India.

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