Asia’s growing economic and political dominance is a fact. According to the IMF in the last five years Asia’s regional growth accounted for about 2/3 of the global growth in total.
A US intelligence report “Global Trends 2030” adds that by then Asia is expected to overtake North America and Europe, combined, in global power based on gross domestic product, population, military spending and technological investment.
As Asia expands economically, the feeling of discomfort among many western leaders increases over the political, social and environmental implications, deriving from Asia’s recipe for growth.
Respect for human rights, rule of law, the environment are a small fraction of the values and norms the west sees as high priority, which Asian giants are willing to overlook for the sake of faster economic expansion. This ambivalence often poses difficulties for western leaders trying to decide what is the best strategy for engaging with Asian powers, mainly China and India.
The EU perspective:
The principles of democracy and human rights are at the core of the European Union; therefore it’s possible to understand EU’s reluctance to engage in unconditional cooperation with Asian countries. Yet the EU cannot expect to address seriously any of the major global challenges without the strong cooperation of its Asian partners.
The EU has the possibility of striking the right balance between these two ends of the rope by maximizing its soft power.
Regardless of the economic difficulties, the EU continues to maintain its appeal to citizens and consumers in the Asian region. Attending a European university, wearing a brand designed by a European fashion house, driving a European car are all symbols of status and high social class in these countries.
Furthermore, the EU continues to be one of the most important trading partners for Asian countries with an annual average growth rate of trade of 5.8% (2008-12). Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) between the regions has also been steadily on the rise.
According to Capital, an Investment Fund, Chinese overseas investment into Europe in 2012 grew by 21% in 2011 to $12.6 billion.
Through the economic channel the EU can put forward human rights and environmental concerns, together with growing economic expansion.
Free trade agreements (FTA) are one means of achieving that. Increasing trade on renewable energy products is another.
From a political perspective, as Asian powers call to reform the global decision making institutions to represent the new balance of power, the EU can assume the role of honest broker and try to lead the change. It can, for example support candidates from Asia to top positions at the IMF or the World Bank. It can also lead diplomatic talks and negotiations for reforming the UN Security Council.
Adapting itself to the changing world and trying to influence the world’s political and economic affairs will ensure the EU is a partner, rather than a bystander to this historic shift of power….
Greetings from the European Parliament,
Lidia Geringer de Oedenberg