The new American administration has yet to define its relationship with Asia. While Washington is making a well-thought-out policy towards Asia, Europe must also redefine its own relationship with the region and craft a stand-alone policy towards the continent that still looks up to it for trade, investment and technology. While economic growth continues to be strong, political antagonisms begin to rise. North Korea’s recent firing of an intermediate-range ballistic missile is a reminder of Asia’s importance for global security.
Europeans and Asian have a common interest in collaborating on issues such as climate change, preserving the Iran deal and safeguarding international organizations including the United Nations. In addition to Europe’s soft power expertise in preventive diplomacy, conflict resolution and conflict management, Brussels is also a valuable partner for Asia in managing maritime security, fighting cybercrime and countering terrorism. A more visible European security profile in Asia would surely have the added benefit of helping the EU’s longstanding goal of joining the East Asia Summit, an annual forum of Asian countries that since 2011 has included also the US and Russia.
Following the collapse of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade agreement and the US disinterest in the Transatlantic Trade and Investment (TTIP), Brussels should work harder to finally revive pending free trade agreements with Japan, India and individual South East Asian countries. Trade is a major employer within the bloc, giving livelihood to about 31 million Europeans. Therefore, the EU should get serious about negotiating an FTA with the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and speed up trade talks with Australia and New Zealand.
Moreover, on top of trade and security concerns, Brussels should also make a serious effort to revamp its bilateral ties with Asia’s major players. The links that the EU has developed over the years with China, Japan, Korea, India and ASEAN should be now made resilient and strategically substantiated. Europe should also get inspiration from other regional initiatives such as trilateral cooperation efforts by Japan, China and Korea.
‘Europe-Asia Relations Become a Priority in the Age of Trump’ – Commentary by Shada Islam – Friends of Europe.