The Asian foreign forum, which takes place every two years, is focused on dialogues between the European Union and Asia to develop mutual benefits. The EU can only offer to Asia a development environment and human rights. Asia depends on soft power, but they do not want any soft power from Europe because they like to keep things in terms of the dictum “see what you have to see”.
European thinking is from point A point to point B point, but Asian thinking is that point A can lead to many points; they have not one fixed point, but see many options and think more spontaneously in many ways.
Chinese business operates on a long term perspective, and this is why they will become the next dominant power. In our governments, plans change every four years after each election, while in China, there is one party, and the party has a long term goal. Former British Prime Minister David Cameron tried to bring China closer to the United Kingdom, and it paid dividends. At present, the UK is closer to China than Germany is, and China is set to commence high speed building in the UK. Moreover, China is going to buy firms across the European Union in order to gain access to technologies. The EU is currently trying to persuade China to switch to making their payments in Euros, because US economy is in decline.
The European Union has only limited force in treaties, and when we are negotiating to Asia we cannot fully back up our statements. The EU is the number one partner for China and the US is number one for the EU. China has started to exert influence through its own resources and we are going to become more dependent on China.
China tries to secure agreements in Africa, too. When the European Economic Community asked China for help in Africa they rejected it. China does the same things as colonial enterprises have done historically, but the great question is to what extent Africa will welcome it?
There is competitive liberalisation going on between the European Union and South Korea, where both countries have access to common markets and other states in Asia, such as Japan and Singapore, are also willing to participate. Moreover, Malaysia is willing to join as well, but this agreement has to be ratified by their parliament and then be signed by the government; in some cases, this is very difficult to achieve.
The Trans-Pacific Partnership differs from the European Union, because the EU is trying to achieve state to state economic agreements with states which are not members of the EU, such as with Laos and Myanmar, … it is better to work on this principle. Moreover, the EU is only an economic power; when comes to politics, this is another issue.
*Discussion with Prof. Paul Joseph Lim, Associate Fellow at ERCCT, University of Tübingen, Germany, entitled ‘Less Talk, More Action: Can the EU Be a Political-Security Actor in Asia?’, held at Brussels, Belgium and provided by Global Learning