Ashton wraps up cooperation-building mission
By Lénaïc Vaudin d’Imécourt | Friday 13 July 2012
The EU’s foreign policy chief, Catherine Ashton, is back in Brussels from a five-day trip to Asiawhere she discussed ways to enhance cooperation with China, signed a partnership and cooperation agreement (PCA) with the Philippines, attended the ASEAN Forum and signed the EU’s accession instrument to the Treaty of Amity and Cooperation (TAC).
“All member states and all the institutions of the EU agree on the importance of our relationship with Asia,” Ashton noted. “We have had many years of cooperation with the countries of ASEAN and the ten countries of this region. And of course we have a strategic partnership with China and I have been holding discussions with China in the framework of the strategic dialogue that takes place every year,” she explained.
Concrete results came out of the five-day visit, qualified as a “very significant visit for the European Union” by Ashton. The EU managed to finally accede to the TAC, after six years of negotiations, thus integrating the ASEAN a bit more by agreeing to the non-aggression and cooperation pact. Membership of the TAC a first step towards membership of the East Asia summit. The EU signed a PCA with Manila, preparing the ground for a future free trade agreement with the country.
However, some NGOs were disappointed by the outcome of Ashton’s meeting with her Chinese counterparts. “Day after vowing to stress human rights in EU policy, High Rep Ashton signs statement with China with no mention of them,” tweeted Kenneth Roth, the head of Human Rights Watch. “No sign of EU High Rep Ashton’s new proclaimed emphasis on human rights in her meeting with China premier either,” he insisted in a second tweet.
EU, US BOOST COOPERATION IN ASIA
While the EU and the US are currently working on ways to further enhance their bilateral trade relations under the auspices of the high-level working group, both sides have clearly focused their attention on the Asia-Pacific region in the past years, hoping to gain from its growing market. They have agreed to enhance their cooperation in the region, “demonstrating the importance the European Union and the United States attach to this thriving region and its peaceful and dynamic development”.
After meeting in Cambodia. on 12 July, Ashton and US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton issued a joint statement, listing areas in which they wish to combine forces, including in the field of trade an economy. The two recognised the importance of open markets in enhancing growth and development in the region and noted the direct and positive impacts this has on the transatlantic economies. Thus they “decided to continue working together and with partners to improve reciprocal market access for goods and services, including government procurement, to reduce non-tariff barriers, to provide legal security for investment, and to protect intellectual property rights”.