EU and Asia to discuss IMF seats and trade

14 October 2014

Source: Reuters (United Kingdom)
Source type: Others
Published on: 01 Oct 2010

By Timothy Heritage - BRUSSELS (Reuters) - European and Asian leaders will try next week to narrow differences over representation on the IMF at talks intended to break down barriers between countries representing more than half the world's population. The signing of a free-trade pact between South Korea and the European Union on Wednesday will be the highlight of three days of meetings that include an EU-China summit and a gathering of leaders from about 40 EU and Asian states on Monday and Tuesday.

The EU sees strengthening ties with Asia as vital to efforts to enhance its global standing and match the rise of emerging powers such as India and China, but its efforts are hindered by disputes over trade, currency issues and how many seats Europe has on the IMF's governing board.

"I don't think we'll be delivering a solution (on the IMF seats) during this summit. We'll be looking at the room for manoeuvre we have in this discussion," an EU official said.

Europe has been under pressure to produce proposals in time for a summit of the Group of 20 economic powers in the South Korean capital Seoul November 11-12, and suggested on Friday it could give up two of its nine International Monetary Fund seats.

The United States, frustrated at Europe's refusal to share more power, declined in August to back a resolution that would have maintained European dominance on the International Monetary Fund's 24-member board.

Washington wants the number of IMF board seats cut to 20 as part of reforms to give emerging economic powers a bigger say in IMF decisions, reflecting their growing global clout.

The EU's Belgian presidency said the bloc would start discussing with the United States and other countries a proposal to give up as many as two of Europe's seats and rotate its remaining positions.

Germany, France and Britain have their own seats on the board, while EU members Belgium, the Netherlands, Spain, Italy and Denmark represent groups of countries. Switzerland, which is not part of the EU, also has a chair.


The 48 states that are invited to the biennial Asia-Europe Meetings (ASEM) are responsible for half the world's gross domestic product, almost 60 percent of the world's population and 60 percent of global trade, EU officials say.

Leaders expected in Brussels include Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao and Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan. Europe will be represented by leaders including European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso, EU President Herman Van Rompuy, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Nicolas Sarkozy.

Europe hopes the free-trade pact with South Korea, which will create about 19 billion euros in new exports for EU producers, will be followed by deals with other Asian states.

The EU will also launch free-trade talks with Malaysia on Tuesday and the ASEM meeting will issue a statement on improving global economic governance, achieving sustainable development, combating global warming and meeting aid targets.

Beijing has praised Europe's efforts to emerge from economic crisis, although the EU's expected growth of 1.8 percent this year is much slower than China's.

But there will be few concrete results at the meetings and clashes are possible on a range of issues.

EU officials said Europe would raise concerns with China about market access for goods and services, the protection of intellectual property rights and the opening of public procurement markets.

There are also big differences between the EU and Beijing over human rights and China's currency, which the United States and European powers say is undervalued and contributes to trade imbalances.

Jean-Claude Juncker, who chairs meetings of countries using the euro, will discuss exchange rates with Wen on Wednesday but has given no other details.

"Those looking for quick breakthroughs at the Brussels (ASEM) meeting are likely to be disappointed," the European Policy Centre, a Brussels think tank, wrote.

"ASEM could become a more potent player on the world stage. To achieve this, however, Asia and Europe will have to move the focus from process to substance."
The impact of the meeting could also be limited by the expected absence of leaders from India, the Philippines and Indonesia as well as from new members Russia and New Zealand.

(Editing by Sonya Hepinstall)