EU seeking to step up engagement with Indo-Pacific region
A day after the US, UK and Australia unveiled a new trilateral defence pact for the Indo-Pacific region, the European Union has announced a new plan to step up its engagement with the region, which is increasing in strategic importance for Europe.
"Its [Indo-Pacific's] growing economic, demographic, and political weight makes it a key player in shaping the rules-based international order and in addressing global challenges," said a joint communication between the European Commission and the High Representative released today.
To implement the new strategy, the EU will complete trade negotiations with Australia, Indonesia and New Zealand; resume trade negotiations and start investment negotiations with India; complete an Economic Partnership Agreement with the East Africa Community.
The US already has its Indo-Pacific Strategy, which international relations analysts say is aimed at countering China, which has the mega Belt and Road Initiative to connect China to the rest of the world through road, rail, sea and air connectivity.
The EU in a statement said it aims to contribute to the Indo-Pacific region's stability, security, prosperity and sustainable development, in line with the principles of democracy, rule of law, human rights and international law.
"The economic, demographic, and political weight of the Indo-Pacific region is expanding, from the east coast of Africa to the Pacific island states," European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said in a statement.
High Representative/Vice-President Josep Borrell said: "The world's centre of gravity is moving towards the Indo-Pacific, both in geo-economic and geo-political terms. The futures of the EU and the Indo-Pacific are interlinked."
He said the EU is already the top investor, the leading development cooperation partner and one of the biggest trading partners in the Indo-Pacific region.
"Our engagement aims at maintaining a free and open Indo-Pacific for all, while building strong and lasting partnerships to cooperate on matters from the green transition, ocean governance or the digital agenda to security and defence."
It will also assess the possible resumption of trade negotiations with Malaysia, the Philippines and Thailand, and the eventual negotiation of a region-to-region trade agreement with ASEAN.
The EU will also conclude Partnership and Cooperation Agreements (PCA) with Malaysia and Thailand; start PCA negotiations with the Maldives, and bring the EU's upcoming new Partnership Agreement with the African, Caribbean, and Pacific States (ACP) to full fruition.
It will also strengthen ocean governance in the region, including increasing the EU's support for Indo-Pacific countries' fisheries management and control systems, the fight against Illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing and the implementation of Sustainable Fisheries Partnership Agreements.
By The Daily Star/ANN