Joining forces with the Indo-Pacific: Kick-starting Europe’s new approach to the region

Over the course of the day, we will discuss how Europe and Asia can redefine the Indo-Pacific in terms compatible with their mutual interests. The 3 sessions will look specifically at trade, connectivity, and the Green Transition.

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Ahead of France’s EU Council Presidency in 2022, ECFR organised a virtual three-session event on boosting EU-Indo-Pacific relations, in cooperation with the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Over the course of the day, we brought together speakers from the Indo-Pacific and their European counterparts to discuss how Europe and Asia can redefine the region in terms compatible with their mutual interest, looking in detail at trade, connectivity, and the Green Transition.

At a time when Indo-Pacific resident powers’ perception of Europe’s intentions remains unclear, the EU’s recently launched strategy intends to be the bedrock for a mutually beneficial relationship with the region. What is at stake is an increasingly real risk of conflict but also a fundamental redefinition of world order, which could be highly detrimental to Europe’s interests and status, as shown by Frederic Grare and Manisha Reuter in their paper, Moving closer: European views of the Indo-Pacific.

From this perspective the EU Strategy for Cooperation in the Indo-Pacific is also an assertion that Europe has capabilities of its own to contribute significantly to both the depolarization of the region and the peaceful rebalancing of its own relations with its major stakeholders, in particular China. Bringing clarity to the EU strategy and the positions of regional players will be essential to tackle the priorities of the French Council presidency. 

Agenda

  • 9:00 – 9:05
    • Opening Remarks
  • 9:05 – 9:30
    • Keynote address: Understanding the Strategic Problem of the Indo-Pacific     
      • Michel Miraillet, Director General of Globalization, Culture, Education and Internal Development at the French Ministry of Europe and Foreign Affairs
  • 9:30 – 11:00
    • Trade as Strategy or Trade versus Strategy?
    • For decades, trade and investment have been at the heart of Europe’s approach to the countries that are part of the Indo-Pacific. The latter is today the second largest destination for exports from the EU and home to four of the bloc’s top ten trading partners. Indeed, the vast majority of EU member states see the Indo-Pacific as an area of huge economic opportunities. However, recent developments have not only underlined the centrality of China to the economy of the region but also laid bare the risks of globalized supply chains and over-dependencies. Is the way the EU intends to frame its trade and investment relationships with the Indo-Pacific likely to offer options for diversification and confer additional influence?
      • Sanjaya Baru, Distinguished Fellow, United Service Institution of India
      • Agatha Kratz, Associate Director, Rhodium Group
      • Maria Martin-Prat, Deputy Director-General, DG-Trade
      • Hideyasu Tamura, Senior Director, Trade Policy Bureau, Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry, Japan (METI)
      • Chaired by: Frédéric Grare, Senior Policy Fellow, ECFR
  • 11:30 – 13:00
    • Connectivity as a Strategic Tool
    • From China’s Belt and Road Initiative to Japan’s Quality Infrastructure Initiative, the connectivity agenda has been at the heart of both the Indo-Pacific’s economic transformation and its geopolitical contests. The region was the first focal point for the EU’s own nascent scheme, through its strategy for connecting Europe and Asia, and its most substantial partnerships, with India and Japan. While translating this into effect has been a slow process, with the newly announced “Global Gateway” there is now the prospect that the EU will mobilize political capital and finance behind its strategic goals. Can like-minded actors in the region combine their various efforts effectively around a common set of priorities?
      • William Choong, Senior Fellow, Regional Strategic & Political Studies, ISEAS-Yusof Ishak Institute
      • Rocky Intan, Researcher, Department of International Relations, Centre for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) Indonesia
      • Maaike Okano-Heijmans, Senior Research Fellow, Clingendael Institute
      • Romana Vlahutin, Ambassador at Large for Connectivity, European External Action Service
      • Chaired by: Tara Varma, Head of Paris Office and Policy Fellow, European Council on Foreign Relations
  • 14:00 – 15:30
    • The Green Transition: Cooperation and Systemic Competition
    • The fight against climate change and for the preservation of the environment has, in an Indo-Pacific context, all the appearances of a consensual theme. Its global character makes it, in official rhetoric, an indisputable field of cooperation with China and other major carbon producers. Yet climate action increasingly intersects with questions of geopolitical and geo-economic interest, as competition for technologies, markets, resources, and broader geopolitical influence become inseparable from the green transition agenda. How will the post-COP climate action, the push for leadership in green industries, navigating dependencies on critical materials, and the growing emphasis on the green transition in connectivity plans fit together into a coherent European approach in the Indo-Pacific?
      • Paolo Caridi, Responsible for China Relations, Directorate-General for Climate Action, European Commission
      • Olivia Lazard, Visiting Scholar, Carnegie Europe
      • Mihir Sharma, Director, Centre for Economy and Growth Program, Observer Research Foundation
      • Byford Tsang, Senior Policy Advisor, E3G
      • Chaired by: Janka Oertel, Asia Programme Director, ECFR
  • 15:30 – 15:40
    • Closing remarks by Gabriele Visentin, EU Special Envoy for Indo-Pacific, European External Action Service