Finding a Common Ground in ASEM 2018
NOTES FROM THE EU DELEGATION - Franz Jessen (The Philippine Star) - March 1, 2018 - 12:00am

Today, the 1st of March, we commemorate ASEM Day. ASEM stands for the Asia-Europe Meeting, and we celebrate the ASEM Day to promote “Cooperation, Partnership and Connectivity between Asia and Europe.”

The Philippines is a founding member of ASEM which was inaugurated 22 years ago by the member countries of ASEAN and the EU. Today, ASEM has grown to 53 members, with new Asian partners including China, Japan, India, Korea, ASEAN, Australia, New Zealand, Russia and Kazakhstan having joined.

ASEM has over the years evolved into the main platform for dialogue between Asia and Europe, and has contributed significantly to make Asia and Europe more interconnected with each other. The ASEM framework is anchored on three pillars: political, economic and social-cultural. Over a year, a number of meetings between ministers, experts and others are being organised all over Asia and Europe. Next week, for example, a meeting between cultural ministers of ASEM will be held in Bulgaria, and meetings between foreign, finance, education ministers, to name a few, will take place over the year.

A highlight on the ASEM agenda is the biannual summit meeting for the heads of state and government. In 2016 the Summit took place in Mongolia, and this year, in October, the summit will take place in Brussels. The president of the European Council, Donald Tusk, will co-chair the two-day meeting.

It will be the twelfth summit, and Presidents and Prime Ministers of ASEM members will come together in an informal setting to discuss global challenges and how to develop common responses under the overall theme of “Global Partners for Global Challenges.”

Why then is ASEM important? Because Asia matters for Europe, as much as Europe matters for Asia.

The rise, or rather the re-emergence, of Asia is one of the major trends shaping the world today. Asia is home to the world’s fastest growing economies, the Philippines being an obvious example; it is experiencing rapidly changing political dynamics and, as a result, Asia has rising global significance and influence, which directly affects European interests.

The relation between Asia and Europe in the field of investment and trade is strong, as we see not least here in the Philippines. Both Asia and Europe are interdependent and interconnected. Asia has become the EU’s main trading partner, accounting for a third of total trade. A large chunk of EU’s outward investment is going to Asia while inward investment is growing fast. So Asia matters to Europe economically.

But Asia also matters to Europe in political and security terms. Five of the European Union’s most important ‘strategic partners’ are located in the region (China, India, Japan, the Republic of Korea and Russia). The European Union is negotiating or has concluded negotiations on partnership and cooperation agreements with a whole range of Asian counterparts, including the Philippines. Cooperation with Asian partners will be crucial to tackle global challenges such as climate change, the development agenda, non-proliferation, or maritime security. So it is only logical that the EU is building up its engagement in and with Asia.

At the same time, I believe that Europe also matters to Asia. Asia’s future growth depends on access to European markets, as the EU remains the largest economy in the world.

Being at the center of ASEAN, and of ASEM, the Philippines has an important voice in the ASEM process. A voice and views that help us to shape a common future.

That is why we today celebrate the ASEM Day, and why we hope that the 12th Summit in October in Brussels will bring the partnership between Europe and Asia forward, when global partners discuss global challenges.

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