News Analysis: Meeting Asia, Europe looks east

14 October 2014

Source: Xinhua (China)
Source type: News Agency
Published on: 02 Oct 2010

BRUSSELS, Oct. 2 (Xinhua) -- European and Asian leaders are set to build on centuries-old trade and economic ties between the two continents when they meet here Monday.

Hosting more than a dozen Asian leaders in the heart of Europe, the European Union (EU) is looking east for more trade to support its fragile recovery and warily accepts the rising power of its eastern partners.


The Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM), an informal platform for dialogue launched in 1996, will have 48 partners, with Russia, Australia and New Zealand due to join it this year. Together with the European Commission and the ASEAN Secretariat, 28 European countries, including 27 EU member states, and 18 Asian countries will be around the table.

The 48 ASEM partners now represent about half of the world's economic output, almost 60 percent of the world's population and 60 percent of global trade, according to EU statistics.

Trade and economic cooperation between European and Asian countries has expanded rapidly in recent years. EU figures show its trade in goods between 2000 and 2008 with the 18 Asian ASEM countries and Russia, nearly doubled, rising from 54.6 billion euros (74.8 billion U.S. dollars) to 104 billion euros (142.5 billion U.S. dollars).

Although the financial crisis dealt a heavy blow to trade between the EU and its ASEM partners, with total imports and exports down by 20 percent in 2009, there was renewed growth this year.

In the first half of this year, the ASEM partners accounted for 29 percent of EU exports and 45 percent of imports. The EU has also become the leading market for many Asian countries, such as China and South Korea.

"The big trend is no doubt that economic integration between the two is deepening and thickening. It is also becoming more mature, with a much more flavored integration than the crude version, with Asian exports to Europe and European capital to Asia, that dominated for a long time," said Fredrik Erixon, director of the European Center for International Political Economy, a Brussels-based think tank.


In the 14 years of ASEM's history, the world economy has undergone a fundamental change. As a result of years of rapid growth of Asia's emerging economies, the global balance of economic power is shifting from the west towards the east; and the financial crisis has accelerated the process.

The EU, hard hit by the financial crisis and still struggling with a sovereign debt problem, now lags behind its Asian partners in economic recovery.

"Asia is an emerging giant in the world economy while Europe is a diminishing giant. This is not an effect of the crisis. It is a reflection of the two-decade-long boom in Asia, but the crisis has speeded up the change," Erixon said.

Faced with a nervous financial market, sluggish investment and weak private consumption, the EU has pinned its hope for economic growth on outside demand.

Official figures show it was largely due to strong exports that the EU managed to maintain positive growth this year. Demand from emerging Asian economies was particularly strong.

"Asia will be central to sales growth for Europe's multinational firms in the future," Erixon said. "Other markets will remain important, too, but market expansion in the next 10 years will largely be a story about Asia as Europe and the U.S. will suffer from an anemic recovery."

Trying to take hold of the Asian markets, the EU will formally sign a free trade agreement with South Korea at a separate bilateral summit on Wednesday. A similar deal is expected to be signed by the EU and India later this year. On the margins of the ASEM meeting, the EU will also launch free trade negotiations with Malaysia.


The rise of developing countries in Asia calls for a revamp of the global structure of economic governance, which has been dominated by rich countries, including European countries.

Moving towards more effective global financial and economic governance has been identified as one of the top priorities for European and Asian leaders. A separate declaration entitled "Towards more effective global economic governance" was expected to be adopted at the end of the summit, the EU said.

The financial and economic crisis lends new momentum to the reform of global economic governance. Using G20 as a major platform, world leaders have agreed on more say and representation for emerging and developing economies in international institutions, such as the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

On the eve of the ASEM summit, EU finance ministers said on Friday the EU was ready to cede two of its seats on the IMF board to under-represented emerging markets and to push for the completion of IMF quota reform this year.

But the EU's concession was criticized by analysts as insufficient.

Europeans currently have a third of the 24 seats on the IMF board of executive directors.

Besides economic governance, European and Asian leaders will also address sustainable development, the other key economic issue, at their two-day summit. They are expected to issue a joint call for a "binding" climate change deal, according to a draft document to be adopted.

-From Xinhua