Publication in Economics, Politics and Public Policy in East Asia and the Pacific

European Union

Debt relief boosts Myanmar’s COVID-19 recovery

Person waving a Myanmar flag at Kyite Ka San Football Stadium in Yangon, Myanmar, 29 November 2017 (Photo: Reuters/Soe Zeya Tun).

Author: Sean Turnell, Macquarie University

On 1 July 2020, the European Union and six of its member governments announced a moratorium on debt repayments due from Myanmar. The agreement allows Myanmar to ‘focus efforts on economic recovery from COVID-19’ and is worth almost US$100 million — 20 per cent of Myanmar’s current debt payments schedule.

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A collective ASEAN response to COVID-19

An official wearing a face mask looks on as Vietnam's Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc attends a special video conference with leaders of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) on the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in Hanoi 14 April 2020 (Photo: Reuters/Manan Vatsyayana).

Author: Hsien-Li Tan, NUS

When COVID-19 cases first appeared in the ASEAN region early in 2020, there were fears that public health systems would be overwhelmed. Responses around the region have varied. After decisive action — and missteps — in the initial months, Vietnam, Thailand, Brunei, Malaysia, and Singapore are now cautiously relaxing restrictions while working to avert a second wave. Indonesia and the Philippines continue to see significantly higher infection and death rates, leading to strong criticism against the Jokowi and Duterte administrations.

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Vietnam’s environmental challenges risk EU free trade

A worker rides his motorcycle near lorries transporting coal at a port of the Cua Ong Coal Preparation Company in Cam Pha town, Quang Ninh, Vietnam (Photo: Reuters/Kham).

Author: Thang Nam Do, ANU

Vietnam needs to address environmental challenges to fully reap the benefits from its new free trade and investment agreements with the European Union. On 8 June, Vietnam’s National Assembly ratified the EU–Vietnam Free Trade Agreement and Investment Protection Agreement, following the European Parliament’s approval in February. Ratifying the agreement clears the path for Vietnam to expand exports to the potentially lucrative EU market and to attract more investment from the economic bloc.

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Fast-tracking a Philippine–EU free trade agreement

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte gestures during the opening session of the ASEAN and European Union summit in Pasay, Manila, Philippines, 14 November 2017 (Photo: Reuters/Dondi Tawatao).

Author: Stacey Nicole M Bellido, Manila

The Philippines is at a critical juncture in its economic relations with the European Union over free trade agreement (FTA) negotiations. As the economic consequences of pandemic grip the world, the Philippines should seize this opportunity to revive negotiations and secure a Philippine–EU FTA to help drive a long-term and sustainable economic recovery.

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Tough talking at the EU–China summit

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and European Council President Charles Michel (not pictured) attend a news conference following a virtual summit with Chinese President Xi Jinping in Brussels, Belgium, 22 June 2020 (Reuters/Yves Herman/Pool).

Author: Fraser Cameron, EU-Asia Centre

On 22 June, the first summit took place between the new EU leadership team, headed by European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and President of the European Council Charles Michel, and China’s President Xi Jinping and Premier Li Keqiang, but there was little time for small talk. One official remarked, ‘the gloves were off from the start’ with no attempt to secure a traditional joint statement, let alone a joint press conference. Read more…

Exposing the fragility of EU–China relations

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi waits before a meeting with European Council President Charles Michel at the EU council headquarters in Brussels, Belgium, 17 December 2019 (Photo: Reuters/John Thys).

Author: Tim Rühlig, Swedish Institute of International Affairs

2020 was supposed to be an important year for EU–China relations as the European Union’s China policy is undergoing a deep transformation. Four summits had been planned this year. The first two were cancelled and a mid-September leaders’ meeting in Leipzig risks suffering the same fate. It also seems unlikely that the two sides will conclude an EU–China Comprehensive Agreement on Investment in 2020 after seven years of negotiations.

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Understanding the EU–Vietnam Free Trade Agreement

European Commissioner for Trade Cecilia Malmstrom, Romania's Business, Trade and Enterpreneurship Minister Stefan Radu Oprea and Vietnam's Industry and Trade Minister Tran Tuan Anh attend the signing ceremony of EU-Vietnam Free Trade Agreement at the government office in Hanoi, Vietnam, 30 June 2019 (Photo: Reuters/Kham).

Author: Ha Hai Hoang, Hanoi National University of Education

In February, the European Parliament adopted the EU–Vietnam Free Trade Agreement (EVFTA). This is the most comprehensive and ambitious EU trade agreement with a developing country. Since failing to negotiate an EU–ASEAN trade agreement, the European Union and Vietnam turned to extensive bilateral negotiations to reach a trade deal of their own. Once it is ratified by Vietnam’s National Assembly in May, the EVFTA will open up huge opportunities for businesses and consumers. Read more…

Facing the greatest economic crisis since the Great Depression

People wearing face masks walk inside a subway station during morning rush hour, following an outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in Beijing, China 11 May, 2020 (Photo: Reuters/Carlos Garcia Rawlins).

Authors: Yves Tiberghien, UBC, Alan S Alexandroff, University of Toronto and Colin Bradford, Brookings

Three months into the COVID-19 crisis, the world is not only facing a pandemic that keeps claiming lives, but also the greatest economic crisis since the 1930s. Growth has turned negative, unemployment keeps rising, trade is collapsing, capital flows are fleeing emerging markets, and remittances are falling. Read more…

Why some advanced countries fail to deal with COVID-19

United States President Donald J Trump, left, and United States Vice President Mike Pence arrive to a news conference in the Rose Garden at the White House in Washington DC, United States, 13 March 2020 (Photo: Reuters/Stefani Reynolds).

Authors: Elizabeth Thurbon, UNSW and Linda Weiss, Sydney University

Stark differences are emerging in how national authorities in advanced democracies are grappling with the COVID-19 pandemic. Compare the strategic responses of Denmark, Taiwan, and South Korea with the more faltering actions of the United States, Italy and Spain. Read more…

COVID-19 challenges Downing Street’s post-Brexit Asia ambitions

Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab holds the COVID-19 Digital Press Conference at 10 Downing Street, London, UK, 13 April 2020. there are already 11,329 deaths caused by COVID-19 (Photo: ReutersLatin/ America News Agency).

Author: Oliver Turner, University of Edinburgh

What implications does the COVID-19 pandemic signal for the United Kingdom’s role and presence in Asia? The Conservative UK government’s post-Brexit vision for a ‘Global Britain’ identifies the Indo-Pacific as one of three ‘centres of the global economy and political influence’ crucial to national prosperity and security. But the Global Britain vision is criticised for lacking substance and for being grounded in the problematic logic of — and nostalgia for — the British Empire. Read more…

Leveraging the EU-Vietnam Free Trade Agreement for development

European Union and Vietnamese flags are seen at the signing ceremony of EU-Vietnam Free Trade Agreement at the government office in Hanoi, Vietnam, 30 June 2019 (Reuters/Kham).

Authors: Vu Minh Khuong, NUS and Kris Hartley, EdUHK

The EU-Vietnam Free Trade Agreement (EVFTA) was approved by the European Parliament in February 2020 and is expected to be approved by the National Assembly of Vietnam at its meeting in mid-2020. Although the COVID-19 outbreak may delay the meeting, the approval of the Agreement is a top priority. Read more…

Palm oil politics still threaten EU–Malaysia ties

A truck carrying oil palm fruits passes through Felda Sahabat plantation in Lahad Datu in Malaysia's state of Sabah on Borneo island, 20 February 2013 (Photo: REUTERS/Bazuki Muhammad).

Author: Helena Varkkey, University of Malaya

Malaysia and the European Union share a long history and strong trade ties. The European Union is Malaysia’s third-largest trading partner and is its largest source of foreign direct investment, and Malaysia is a major exporter of raw materials to the European Union. But politics over palm oil threaten their relationship.

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A global problem requiring a global solution

Pedestrians wearing protective masks ride an escalator near an overpass with an electronic board showing stock information, following an outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), at Lujiazui financial district in Shanghai, China, 17 March 2020 (Photo: Reuters/Aly Song).

Authors: John WH Denton, ICC and Peter Drysdale, ANU

The rapidly escalating coronavirus pandemic is, first and foremost, a public health emergency. But as the virus spreads and governments take dramatic actions to curb the disease, it is also rapidly causing a global economic crisis. A prolonged outbreak — with reduced demand, disturbed supply chains and increasing uncertainty — could lead to widespread job losses and businesses closing down and cause other second-order economic effects. The pandemic has undoubtedly become the greatest health and economic crisis in modern times. Read more…

The European Commission’s palm oil conundrum

An aerial photo of a palm oil plantation in Batanghari, Jambi province, Sumatra island, Indonesia, 28 November 2018 (Photo: Reuters/Antara Foto/Wahdi Septiawan).

Author: Naila Maier-Knapp, University of Rostock

With new regulatory changes now taking place on the basis of the EU’s Renewable Energy Directive (RED) II of 2018, Indonesia and Malaysia are trying to come to terms with the implications for their global palm oil market strategy and domestic production. They are mobilising intra-regional support from ASEAN and its members and even considering bringing their case forward to the WTO. The prospect of a considerable dip in palm oil exports to the European Union has become very real. Read more…

Little Britain post-Brexit

A man holds a dog on a leash with clothes on and a sign on Brexit day in London, Britain, 31 January 2020. (Photo: REUTERS/Henry Nicholls).

Author: Editorial Board, ANU

The United Kingdom has exited the European Union. It has unshackled itself from European regulations and standards and in doing so has put up barriers to commerce and the free movement of people with the major economic bloc on its doorstep.

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