Global security issues, including joint Asia-Europe counter-terror measures, nuclear tensions with
The September 10-11 gathering, bringing together leaders from 13 Asian and 25 European Union states – plus the European Commission – is also expected to take decisions on widening ASEM membership to bring in more Asian and European states.
The EU wants its future members
Current Asian members of ASEM include
In addition, ASEM leaders will urge a revival of the crippled World Trade Organisation (WTO) effort to clinch a new deal to break down global trade barriers and issue a joint commitment to fight climate change.
The conference’s over-arching objective, however, is to inject more life and dynamism into the 10-year old ASEM relationship, initially launched in
Finnish diplomats – representing the current EU presidency – say the two-day meeting will take stock of the last 10 years of the “multi-layered and multi-faceted” ASEM relationship but also strive to come up with new ideas for the future.
“This is a time to look forward and see where we should be headed,” said a Finnish diplomat. One key challenge was to make ASEM “more visible and relevant,” he added.
That may not be easy, however. While trade and investment ties between
A report commissioned by the Japanese and Finnish foreign ministries, which will be the basis for leaders’ discussions in
While it has been broad-ranging, Asia-Europe ties have not been deep, says the report, adding: “The dialogue process has … stayed at information-sharing level and has not moved into substantive cooperation.”
Other veteran ASEM-watchers agree with the analysis. Many Asian countries expected the EU to become a powerful global player but last year’s failure of the EU constitution, coupled with the bloc’s continuing economic trials, have tarnished Europe’s international reputation, says David Fouquet, whose Asia-Europe-Project website keeps track of developments in the two regions.
A meeting of EU leaders with Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao will not result in a lifting of the EU’s long-standing arms embargo against
Asked if the EU would meet China’s repeated demands for an end to the ban on arms sales, imposed in protest at Beijing’s crackdown on pro-democracy demonstrators in Tiananmen Square in 1989, Vanhanen said: “Not at this meeting.”
While European companies and exporters continue to be attracted by
In addition, while
One sign of this flagging ASEM diplomacy is that while diplomats from the two regions meet regularly, “
The two sides have also often clashed on human rights – and especially on how best to deal with the generals in
After months of squabbling, EU governments agreed two years ago to open the ASEM forum to
But signalling EU distaste for
Muentefering said that “state-tolerated forced labour is unacceptable and must be actively fought” in
The EU has repeatedly called for the release of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, the Nobel laureate who leads
“Everybody is frustrated, including the Asian countries which are becoming very frustrated,” said Tuomioja.
Reflecting this view, a commentary in the Asia Times newspaper referred to