Faced with the twin challenges of an increasingly isolationist US and a more globalist China, participants at the 26 February Friends of Europe dinner debate “EU-ASEAN relations: separating fact from fiction” agreed on the need to step up EU-ASEAN trade and investment, and, more importantly, to join forces to defend the rules-based global order and institutions, including the World Trade Organization and the United Nations.
Participants discussed ways to boost security cooperation, fight climate change, and collaborate more on science and technology as well as cyberspace. There was concern about the human rights situation in several ASEAN countries as well as the rise of populism in some countries in both ASEAN and the EU.
During the debate, participants also acknowledged the need to overcome fundamental differences in perception between the two regional organisations, with the EU overestimating the level of integration in ASEAN, and ASEAN viewing the EU as little more than an economic alliance. However, if both sides can escape from what some participants called the donor-recipient relationship, there is also potential to develop policy dialogue in specific areas, including fisheries, social protection and public transport.
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