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Asian leaders meet European counterparts to discuss trade

Asian leaders meet European counterparts to discuss trade

After meeting with the UK government to try and progress further on the Brexit deal, EU leaders attended a trade meeting with Asian leaders

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By Meili Chen 19.10.2018

After meeting with the UK government to try and progress further on the Brexit deal, EU leaders attended a trade meeting with Asian leaders on Thursday in Brussels.

The 12th annual Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM) brought 30 European leaders and 21 of their Asian counterparts together, with 55% of global trade connecting the two continental blocs.

Protests outside the event overshadowed the buildup to the meeting as human rights groups such as Amnesty International demanded answers from some of the leaders about human rights topics.

This led to some warring words from the US, with outgoing UN Ambassador Nikki Haley saying that China was “engaged in the persecution of religious and ethnic minorities,” referring to alleged mass Muslim internment in Xinjiang. China responded that they could not allow the people in question to gain acceptance into “modern, civilized” society unless they conformed to Chinese ideals.

The topic of discussion also saw some criticism of Myanmar over the way that it handled the Rohingya refugee crisis, with EU Foreign Affairs Chief Federica Mogherini saying that there needs to be a way to “help the United Nations to have proper access.”

Other topics up for debate will include a group response to climate change, the situation on the Korean peninsula, migration, combating extremism and cybersecurity.

Meanwhile, regarding trade, the EU is hoping to usher in a new era with Singapore and the Association of Southern Eastern Asian Nations (ASEAN), as a new trade deal may be on the table. Singapore is currently looking to expand its R&D initiatives and use advancements in technology to meet the changing needs of its demographic.

The US also criticized the EU for moving too slowly on a potential trade deal. US Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross told Europe that time is running out to secure a deal that suits both parties and that US President Donald Trump is losing patience.

The US and the EU discussed a range of trade measures earlier this year, with Trump seeking new avenues for his soybean crops after China retaliated with a tariff on US soybean exports in just one of a series of trade disputes. In exchange for the EU taking more US soybeans than usual, Trump proposed lifting tariffs on imported EU cars and car parts to the US.

However, the US is giving shorter shift than before for trading blocs trying to secure deals. It lashed out at the UK for being too stringent in its ideals for an agreement post-Brexit.

With China unable to maintain a positive relationship with the US, it has also turned to Europe to expand its trade agreements but has faced similar concerns over competition and a level playing field.

The US has already accused China of operating a difficult market for overseas companies to enter, alleging that these companies can only receive access in exchange for their technological capabilities.

However, as China is maintaining better ties with the EU than its largest economic and geopolitical rival, it will likely find it easier to build bridges. Chinese Premier Li Keqiang told The Netherlands that he planned to “remove foreign equity restrictions to Dutch companies” when he visited there earlier in the week.

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