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ASEAN ANALYSIS  4 October 2010

Asean leaders at ASEM

By David Swartzentruber
AseanAffairs   4 October 2010

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Asean leaders are attending the ASEM meeting in Brussels for two days. The meeting occurs every two years and includes non-Asean members: China, Japan, South Korea, India, Pakistan and Mongolia and new members Australia, New Zealand and Russia. ASEM represents 60 percent of the globe’s population.

The meeting helps the EU to cement its relationships with Asian nations but in this particular meeting, the emerging world economies, led by India and China, are seeking more power at the International Monetary Fund. The emerging economies feel Europe is over-represented at the international lender.

Another issue that is going to be significant is the clash of the emerging economies’ industrial growth and the EU’s concern for a legally binding climate change treaty. The ASEM meeting coincides with a final preparatory meeting in the northern Chinese city of Tianjin for UN climate talks opening in November in Cancun, Mexico.

Expectations are not high that any binding agreements can be reached prior to the Cancun meeting. The tension between China and Japan could overshadow the ASEM get-together as Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao and Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan will attend and the other 49 representatives will look to see if there is a face to face meeting between the two.

A key event for the Europeans is the signing of a major free trade deal between the EU and South Korea, hoping it will be the first in a series of similar pacts with Asian countries. Such a signing could also send a smoke signal to the United States that recovery from the global recession is not a time for protectionism.

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