The EU's Engagements with the Asia Pacific
In R. A. Wessel & J. Odermatt (Eds.), Research Handbook on the European Union’s Engagement with International Organisations. Cheltenham, UK; Northampton, MA: Edward Elgar Publishing, Forthcoming
16 Pages Posted: 13 Feb 2018
Date Written: 2017
The Asia Pacific is a vast and diverse region remote from Europe, and the EU’s engagements with Asia Pacific have been ambivalent. The region is dominated by the United States (the US), China, Japan, and to a lesser extent Australia in relation to the Pacific islands. The region has commenced regional economic integration rather recently and has been characterized by weak regional building and loose institutionalization, which stands in contrast to the European experience of integration. The EU engages with the Asia Pacific only lightly and is largely motivated by an economic rationale, unlike its engagements within multilateral conventions and international organizations and with its near neighbors. The key institutions underpinning regional integration in this region are the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) and its related fora, such as the ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF) and Asia Europe Meeting (ASEM), South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC), the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC), and Pacific Islands Forum (PIF). The EU has published policy and strategy papers addressing its relations with this region, including Toward a New Asia Strategy, Europe and Asia: A Strategic Framework for Enhanced Partnerships, Europe and Asia: A Strategic Framework for Enhanced Partnerships, EU Relations with the Pacific Islands - A Strategy For A Strengthened Partnership and Towards a Renewed EU-Pacific development Partnership.
The EU’s engagements with Asia Pacific are sometimes referenced as an example of interregionalism. According to Jürgen Ruland, interregionalism is “a process characterized by the widening and deepening of political, economic, societal and ideational interactions between international regions”. He further clarifies that “[r]egions are less seen as static ‘natural’ entities formed by geographical contiguity, but rather as social and political constructions based on material transactions and interdependence as well as cognitive factors facilitating ‘regionness’ such as shared norms, identities, practices and institutions.” Interregionalism is comprised of three sub-categories: bi-regionalism; transregionalism; and hybrid interregionalism. Bi-regionalism is known for its group-to-group dialogues, for example that seen in EU-ASEAN (as well as EUMercosur, Mercado Común del Sur) relations. Transregionalism refers to a process in which not only the regional integration organization participates, but also the member states of organizations, and thus there is a more diffuse membership. ASEM thus exemplifies transregionalism. Hybrid interregionalism refers to a residual category that includes inter-continental forums and strategic partnerships. Examples of hybrid interregionalism may be found in EU-ACP (African, Caribbean and Pacific countries) relations. Based on the idea of interregionalism, this chapter examines the EU’s engagements with these four institutions. With this analysis, it aims to identify similarities and differences in the EU’s approaches and to clarify the nature of the EU’s engagements with these four institutions. This chapter then concludes with a short summary of the outlines of the main findings and key arguments.
Keywords: EU, ASEAN, Asia-Euroe Meeting, Pacific Islands Forum, ASEAN Security Forum, APEC, Interregionalism, South Asian Association for Regional Integration
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