Question: EU-ASEAN relations in the context of China

Questions for written answer E-002074/2021

to the Vice-President of the Commission / High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy

Rule 138
Lars Patrick Berg
Subject: EU-ASEAN relations in the context of China

The recent escalation in diplomatic hostilities between the European Union and China puts, as a consequence, more pressure on Association of Southeast Asian Nation (ASEAN) members, who must manage the regional aspirations and power of China. Despite the escalation in rhetoric, China nonetheless remains a major trading partner for EU Member States and ASEAN.

To take into account the worsening relations with China, does the EU have a strategy that will retain economic and trading opportunities for EU businesses in one of the world’s most important markets?

1. What assessment has been made of the impact of deteriorating EU-China relations on the security of ASEAN member states?

2. What, if any, discussions have taken place with ASEAN member states regarding China?

Answer from Valdis Dombrovskis
on behalf of the European Commission

The EU is pursuing a comprehensive Asia strategy. In the ‘EU-China Strategic Outlook’ joint communication of March 2019[1] the EU has taken a more assertive, multifaceted approach to its relations with China, treating China simultaneously as a negotiating partner for cooperation, an economic competitor, and a systemic rival. This includes EU policies aimed at rebalancing the bilateral economic relationship and addressing security risks and other China-related challenges-also in cooperation with like-minded partners, including the members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).

The EU and ASEAN became Strategic Partners in 2020. The relationship between the two regional organisations is based on shared values and principles such as rules-based international order, effective and sustainable multilateralism, free and fair trade, and regional security.

Furthermore, the Council Conclusions on the EU Strategy for Cooperation in the Indo-Pacific adopted on 19 April 2021[2] demonstrate the EU’s recognition of the growing importance of the wider region and its commitment to reinforcing its role in cooperation with its partners there.

As regards trade relations, the EU is pursuing an active and ambitious trade agenda towards ASEAN and its member states. The EU-Singapore Free Trade Agreement (FTA) entered into force on 21 November 2019 and the FTA with Vietnam on 1 August 2020. Trade negotiations are ongoing also with Indonesia.

The EU regularly discusses regional issues, including issues regarding China, in its contacts with the countries of ASEAN.