Asia and Europe connect to respond to global challenges

Saturday, 2018-10-20 14:44:58
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ASEM leaders join in a group photo at the 12th ASEM Summit in Brussels, Belgium. (Photo: European Council)
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NDO – Strengthening the partnership between the Asian and European continents in response to global challenges is the main topic of discussion at the 12th Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM 12) Summit, held in Brussels, Belgium, from October 18 to 19.

The first high-level event in the third decade of cooperation aims to improve the effectiveness of dialogues and cooperation between the two continents in the context of a rapidly changing and unpredictable global situation.

Established in March 1996, over the past two decades of development ASEM has affirmed its position as the largest and most important forum for dialogue between Asia and Europe, contributing to the trend of peace, cooperation and links in the two regions and around the world.

With a mix of 53 members (including 51 countries in Asia and Europe, plus the two partners of the EU and ASEAN), representing roughly 60% of the world’s population and contributing more than 55% of the total trade and 65% of the global GDP, ASEM is a large cooperative mechanism with two political-economic centres that leads the global process for development and innovation.

Therefore, in the context of intertwined opportunities and challenges, amidst critical transitions in both regions, the pioneering mission of ASEM in promoting international cooperation and links becomes more and more critical.

A series of issues, which are important to Asia and Europe, are also important matters to the whole world. And at the recently-wrapped up ASEM 12 Summit in Brussels, emerging global challenges took up most of the discussion and dialogue among ASEAM leaders, including the denuclearisation of the Korean Peninsula, the Iran nuclear issue, the prospects of Asia-Europe economic cooperation, and the efforts to combat climate change. However, strengthening Asia-Europe cooperation and connectivity in the rising tide of trade protectionism is a major challenge and was one of the main discussions by the leaders of the two continents.

In the context of the current global situation, as the international community is facing many opportunities, but also encountering unprecedented challenges, it is clear to understand the significance of the discussions at the Brussels summit.

Unstable security and conflicts in several areas are making global challenges more complex. The trend of multi-layered cooperation and multilateral reforms has been maintained, but the multilateral systems, especially in trade, are vulnerable to unilateral steps which exaggerate the individual interests in certain countries and regions. Movements in the digital age, globalisation and the era of the fourth Industrial Revolution have set new requirements and challenges, which demand a concerted effort to maintain multilateral cooperation and regional connectivity.

Amidst multilateral trade facing unprecedented risks, trade and investment issues in Asia and Europe, as well as cooperation and linkages between the two continents, were outstanding topics at the ASEM Summit. The rise of protectionistism and the escalation of the US-China trade tensions, due to the US President’s tariffs, have created obstacles to the free trade process itself, as well as the global supply chain.

Protectionism is also a factor leading to economic and financial risks, causing panic for investors, whilst the global economy has just recovered its growth momentum after a prolonged crisis and needs more efforts to maintain a stable environment for sustainable growth momentum. As a result, jointly committing to free and open trade, ASEM also prioritises strengthening connectivity, promoting multilateral systems and cooperating in efforts to solve global challenges.

On the eve of the ASEM 12 Summit opening, the European Commission published a draft strategy on connecting Europe and Asia, a European Union (EU) master plan for a comprehensive Europe-Asia sustainable, comprehensive and rules-based connectivity. The rapidly changing and complex international context, together with new challenges, has made the goal of increasing cooperation and connectivity between nations on the two continents even more important. However, it is an opportunity for ASEM to play a pioneering role in coordinating to deal with global challenges and strengthening its role as an effective multilateral cooperation mechanism.