Seminar Analysis and Forecasts of the EU Global Strategy and the Indo-Pacific Strategy

On the occasion of the 150th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between Spain and Japan, INCIPE—in collaboration with the Embassy of Japan—held a seminar on March 15th to deepen and strengthen the relations between both countries. The opening act was given by Vicente Garrido, managing director of INCIPE; Masashi Mizukami, Ambassador of Japan to Spain; and Fidel Sendagorta, general director for North America, Asia, and the Pacific of the Spanish Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

The first panel was The EU Global Strategy: How to Strengthen the EU’s Economic Diplomacy and Its Role in the Security of Asia? José Pedro Sebastián de Erice, Secretary General of INCIPE, moderated the discussion with the panelists David Navarro, Director of ‘Casa Asia’; Íñigo Febrel, deputy director general of economic diplomacy (Spanish Ministry of Foreign Affairs); Alfonso Jiménez, Head of the area of Japan in the directorate general of trade policy to Europe, Asia, and Oceania; and Ana Gascón, University of Zaragoza professor of international public law and member of the Japan research team.

In the first discussion round, the panelists addressed the trade side of the European Strategy. In general terms, The European commission has hinted its overarching strategy in the Asia-Pacific region in three communications. First, the 2006 Global Europe Strategy, based on the establishment of bilateral free-trade agreements in Asia. The trade agreements with Singapore, and later Vietnam, were the first ones to be concluded. In the case of Japan, trade talks were being held by 2015 within the Trade for All Strategy, where Asia-Pacific was for the first time elevated as a crucial region for the EU’s economic interests. In 2015 too, the EU released a communication entitled “The EU and ASEAN: a partnership with a strategic purpose” regarding its strategy towards the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, in which they are still working.

The EU-Japan Partnership Agreement will entail nothing but a third of the world’s GDP

The EU and Japan have many interests in common and share multiple synergies. Both partners have decided to work together to stand up for the current international order, especially in the trading sphere. They champion policies aiming at promoting the economic prosperity of the Asia-Pacific region, and they have shared views in their defense of multilateralism, the respect for international law, and their activities in the WTO.

The panel also tackled the Spanish and European economic diplomacy in Japan. Although the regions of interest for Spain have traditionally been Europe, the American continent, and the Mediterranean, the focus is progressively expanding into Asia. Nonetheless, Spain is currently incurring a significant trade deficit with Asia, which implies a lack of current Spanish investment in the region. The EU economic diplomacy, created in October 2016, considers the implementation and promotion of the EU-Japan Partnership Agreement part of its priorities towards Japan. The agreement, which only anticipates sanitary measures (not tariffs), has allowed the Asian country to develop its own system of geographical indications, and it promotes the EU as a trustworthy partner and ideal destination for investment. This agreement will entail nothing but a third of the world’s GDP.

Eventually, Ana Gascón left the economic dimension of the agreement aside and brought the Strategic Partnership Agreement to the table. Concurrently to the economic aspect of it, the EU-Japan agreement aims at making the EU and Japan true strategic partners. The EU Global Strategy, which establishes the guiding lines in matters of security and foreign policy for the EU in the next few years, emphasizes its own security (and that of its neighbors) and a global governance for the 21st century. These two are precisely the same priorities of Japan in its National Security Strategy. Likewise, both powers contemplate in their strategies the fight against terrorism, cybersecurity, energy security, climate change, and an effective migration policy. Not only do both partners share the same challenges, they also share the same solutions: greater development cooperation, more multilateralism, fight against protectionism, and a blurring between external and internal security.

The second panel, of a more political character, dealt with the topic of The Indo-Pacific Strategy: Regional Implications. ¿What is the Role of the EU? Alonso Dezcallar, Secretary General of the ‘Consejo Asia-Pacífico’ Foundation, moderated the discussion with the panelists Fernando Alonso Navaridas, deputy director general of South and East Asia (Spanish Ministry of Foreign Affairs); Fernando Delage, University of Loyola professor of international relations and deputy director of the international relations graduate program; and the special guest Yuichi Hosoya, Keio University professor of international politics.

When we speak of the concept of ‘Indo-Pacific’, we refer to a political agenda: The answer of multiple Asian countries to the rise of China. The growth of Chinese capabilities and the country’s revisionist stance and politics have pushed many of China’s neighbors to try to balance the Chinese influence.

Japan’s Free and Indo-pacific Strategy highlights three fundaments: the establishment of freedom of navigation and the rule of law, the pursuit of economic prosperity improving connectivity through high-quality infrastructure, and the establishment of capacities to secure sea routes and prevent natural disasters. Moreover, in a novel way, the Japanese strategy also includes Africa and presents it as a common space rather than a “closed club”.

For its part, the United States have replaced the approach to the Indo-Pacific region they followed until recently. The new American strategy consists three pillars. First, on the political side, the US seeks to strengthen the existing political associations, reinforce the freedom of navigation, and achieve the denuclearization of the Korean peninsula. Second, regarding the economic sphere, the US wants free and just trade, and the development of infrastructure in a transparent way. And third, in the military realm, the US expects to reinforce the defensive capabilities in the Indo-Pacific region, following its commitments to its allies in the region. The new approach of the United States is more assertive and geographically narrower than the Japanese strategy. Moreover, the new American strategy does not establish any commercial initiative.

In the discussion, Professor Hoyosa examined China’s actions and role in the international community. He defined China as a country that pursues its own interests, that rejects the international law to a great extent, and that can hardly be considered as “responsible” in the international system. This, together with the new hostile position of the United States towards the international order, pushes the European Union and Japan to assume their role as leaders and defend the rule-based international system.
Finally, in the closing of the seminar, Takuma Inoue, Head of Coordination and Protocol in the Embassy of Japan to Spain, emphasized the EU-Japan cooperation in support of common values and international rules.

Silvia Prada

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