Pivot from the EU to Asia – OpEd – Eurasia Review
By Israel Rafalovich *
The EU and Asia are undergoing rapid changes in an increasingly globalized world. The Asian business community is in fear and Asia’s economic growth will slow due to the impact of the coronavirus. The slowdown would be worse than the global financial crisis of 2008-09 and the Asian financial crisis of 1997.
This is why the EU has stepped up its engagement in Asia. The main reason for this enhanced engagement is the important economic interests the EU has in the region and its concern over recent developments which have exacerbated tensions. The conflict over the South China Sea and the nationalism associated with it is identified by the European Union as the biggest risk factor.
In order to help reduce the risk, the EU should present its own ideas for Asian security and work with Asian partners to promote them, and discover creative solutions that benefit Asian partners and the EU.
The EU economy needs frameworks that allow flexibility, creativity and speed. The EU can prepare geopolitically by investing in Asia’s political architecture and realizing that Asia is much more than China.
There are many common interests between the EU and Asia on political, security, economic and social issues.
On trade and economic issues, the EU is clearly showing that it has a strategy that it is implementing. Strengthening the EU-Asia side would strengthen the prospects for global governance based on multilateral institutions to which Asia and the EU are firmly committed.
Regarding the link between economic and security relations between the EU and Asian countries, we should not forget the leading role of China. Safety at sea, for example, on the Silk Road sea route, is an area where economy and security are closely linked. The Strait of Malacca represents for China, one of the main security challenges concerning the energy trade.
The role that China intends to play as a Provider of Maritime Communication Line Security (SLOC) could pose a challenge to global maritime security.
On the other hand, it might as well represent common ground for future collaborations. Collaboration with China to strengthen the security of SLOCs could be extremely beneficial at a time when European countries’ defense budgets are shrinking.
The lack of a substantial military presence in Asia gives the EU greater leeway to pursue its trade strategy without criticizing the containment from China.
The EU also has an interest in engaging with Asia on common security challenges outside Asia, in particular in Africa and the Middle East. The EU cannot promise aircraft carriers sailing in Asian waters, but many, if not most, of today’s security concerns can be alleviated if not addressed through soft security measures, which is the strength of the EU.
With ASEAN, the EU finds itself at a new interesting point for increased cooperation. The EU could now relaunch cooperation on a more equal basis with ASEAN. ASEAN as well as the European Union find it difficult to make their common voice heard and both are internally divided by outside powers.
From now on, the rapid opening of the talks on the EU-ASEAN free trade agreement becomes more strategic. The European Union has sealed free trade agreements with Singapore, Japan and Vietnam.
With Asia’s growing economic importance to the EU economy, reducing barriers to market access in Asian countries and creating a level playing field will be more important than ever.
The strong position of the EU as an active and constructive member of the ASEAN Regional Forum is due to the fact that it is seen as a body engaged but not threatening, active but without a geopolitical agenda.
Asian leaders can no longer rely exclusively on Uncle Sam and they do not wish to fall under the Chinese steamroller.
So there is a new enthusiasm for the EU as the main defender of a rules-based order. In this way, the EU has a niche in which it could engage as a partner of the supper and not as another superpower.
The EU has understood that if it wants to have an impact in Asia, it will have to take an active part in the security discourse so far dominated by the great powers of the region: China, Russia and the United States.
The European Union contributes to regional security in Asia by supporting multilateral initiatives. No longer. Should the EU be afraid to criticize the great Asian powers when it considers that their action is detrimental to Asian regional stability?
In addition, the European Union does not side with Japan against China or vice versa. The EU is reinforcing the trend towards more outspokenness on Asian affairs. There is a big difference between the EU and other actors in Asia.
While several seem primarily intended to control China by focusing on strengthening its security alliances in the region, the EU’s pivot to Asia, on the other hand, is not directed against any particular country in the region. .
The European Union should abandon its efforts to transfer its own post-war solutions to the Asian situation. Instead, it should focus on rewarding compromise and building on the growth of the arms trade with the region to play a more central security role.
Arms transfers almost always involve security cooperation, be it training, after-sales services or ongoing upgrades. The EU is therefore a much more important security actor in Asia than many in the EU realize, but the main thrust of armaments policy is developed by the member states, with trade considerations being the most important factor. common.
The EU has developed a strong presence in the Asian market, particularly in the sale of naval units. To base the European Union’s foreign and security policy in Asia on alignment with American policy is a mistake.
American diplomacy is closely linked to American economic interests in the region. US and European companies compete in many areas, such as aerospace, transportation equipment, government procurement, media and entertainment, and telecommunications.
The European Space Agency (ESA) is jointly developing with several other Asian countries Galileo, a global navigation satellite system, providing the EU with an anchor in the evolution of space-related power relations in Asia. .
In addition, several EU Member States are cooperating on counterterrorism initiatives and on security issues in Central Asia, a crucial area for One Belt One Road.
Speaking out if the US acts in a way that threatens stability in Asia is the logical step in becoming an independent actor in Asian affairs and would strengthen the image of the EU as a neutral but committed partner in Asian stability.
The challenge for the European Union now is to maintain its commitment, to develop an independent voice and to maintain a long-term commitment to strengthen stability in the region. The market and political value of the EU’s pivot to Asia should not be underestimated.
This allows the European Union to make its presence felt across the entire Asian political spectrum and thus to become an Asian power. It also allows Asian elites to play the EU card against the US, whether in the common currency, a free trade agreement or the purchase of a weapons system.
The European Union cannot remain indifferent to what is happening in Asia due to the growing interconnectivity between Europeans and Asians. The EU should use the geo-economic potential of the EU-Asia connectivity strategy and support it with the necessary financial resources and decision-making powers.
The interdependence of security in Asia and Europe has been illustrated by the current crisis in Ukraine. The EU does not expect Asians to remain neutral between the EU and Russia on the crisis in Ukraine. But conversely, Asians expect the EU to side with those in Asia who oppose any change in the status quo by force or coercion.
Standing behind the US ensures that the US will find its way into Asian markets ahead of the EU, while also allowing the US to be in a better position to negotiate the terms of entry into the market.
The EU’s efforts to play a more active global role will require closer engagement, cooperation and dialogue with the rapidly evolving and increasingly dynamic countries of Asia.
The EU should assume the role of global leader in sustainability and position itself as an attractive partner for Asia. This applies to the technology, the business model as well as emission and behavior standards.
For Asian leaders, it is time to deepen relations with the world’s largest trading bloc and to reach a far-reaching political agreement that should lead to closer foreign policy cooperation between the EU and the ‘ASEAN.
Effective solutions to global challenges can only be developed and implemented in dialogue with Asian states.
At the same time, there is a need for Asians to pay more attention to developments within the European Union, support efforts to improve educational and cultural exchanges and try to overcome differences on human rights. and other questions.
The European Union has the potential to shape the role it wants to play in Asia. It should deepen relations with like-minded democracies in the region. With the EU’s foreign and trade policy, the aim should be to manage the balance between tackling problems openly and tackling them in partnership without resorting to accusations and sanctions.
The EU faces a new reality in Asia. He has no automatic seat at the Asian table and therefore has to redouble his efforts to defend his own interests. It should focus on institution building and rethink how it can help strengthen ASEAN. The European Union must think and act more broadly, quickly and develop a much more aggressive pivot towards Asia.