Deputy Secretary of State Wendy R. Sherman and European External Action Service Secretary General Stefano Sannino led the first U.S.-EU high-level consultations on the Indo-Pacific on December 3 in Washington.
The two reviewed their respective Indo-Pacific engagement and strategies. Both reaffirmed their intention to work together and with partners in support of a free and open Indo-Pacific that is inclusive, based on the rule of law and democratic values, and contributes to the stability, security, and sustainable development of the region. The United States and the European Union share a strategic interest in strengthening cooperation with partners in the Indo-Pacific on the basis of shared values and interests, and in support of multilateral rules-based frameworks. Both sides reaffirmed the importance of ASEAN centrality and supporting a strong and independent ASEAN.
They affirmed their shared goal to coordinate on Indo-Pacific engagement and identified possible priority areas and immediate themes for cooperation, such as the fight against the climate crisis (including prevention and rapid response to natural disasters), public health and pandemic response and preparedness (including support for COVAX, advancing global health security, and support to national health care systems), freedom of navigation and maritime security, human rights, core labor standards as defined by the ILO (including those addressing child labor), good governance, infrastructure, critical and emerging technology, cybersecurity, and countering disinformation. The United States and the EU share an interest in security, stability, and predictability in the region, including regarding freedom of navigation and overflight in accordance with international law as reflected in the 1982 Law of the Sea Convention. They reconfirmed their interest in stability and the status quo in the Taiwan Strait, and both sides noted a shared interest in deepening cooperation with Taiwan consistent with their respective “one-China” policies.
Deputy Secretary Sherman and Secretary General Sannino recognized the significant infrastructure development needs of partners in the Indo-Pacific region. They recalled the intention expressed by President Biden, President von der Leyen, and President Michel at the 2021 U.S.-EU summit and in the margins of the COP 26 to enhance cooperation on sustainable connectivity, quality infrastructure, and to address the climate crisis through infrastructure development.
They reaffirmed the U.S. and EU goal of promoting infrastructure development, including digital infrastructure, that is high-standard, transparent, resilient, and sustainable, and that facilitates the green transition. As part of this goal, they reiterated the United States’ and EU’s shared interest in a transparent, sustainable, and fair regulatory and policy environment in the Indo-Pacific that attracts private and public investment. They expressed their intention to exchange best practices and identify areas of complementarity among existing U.S., EU, regional and multilateral infrastructure initiatives including the Build Back Better World initiative and the EU Global Gateway.
The Deputy Secretary and Secretary General agreed to continue these consultations as appropriate.
Deputy Secretary Sherman and Secretary General Sannino held a separate bilateral meeting on December 2.
On the situation at the EU borders with Belarus, Secretary General Sannino and Deputy Secretary Sherman condemned the Lukashenka regime’s exploitation of migrants, including asylum seekers, and disregard for fundamental human rights and emphasized that the Belarus regime should be held accountable for these abuses. With respect to Russia and Ukraine, they expressed concern on the recent Russian military build-up at the Ukrainian border. They confirmed the EU’s and United States’ unwavering support and commitment to Ukraine's independence, sovereignty, and territorial integrity, within its internationally recognized borders, including the Crimean peninsula. They recalled Ukraine’s sovereign right to make its own foreign- and security policy choices and discussed the importance of continued consultation and U.S.-EU support for Ukraine against Russian aggression.
They discussed concerns over the new COVID-19 Omicron variant. They emphasized the urgency of rapidly and equitably increasing global vaccinations, to combat this and future variants, as well as the need for countries to step up global vaccine contributions, an issue on which the United States and the EU have partnered closely. They also discussed the ongoing crisis in Venezuela and the importance of resuming the comprehensive negotiations to resolve it. They exchanged views on the global energy prices and recent efforts by the EU and the US to address the negative impact on households and businesses.
The Secretary General and Deputy Secretary of State discussed the situation in Afghanistan, emphasizing the need to provide urgent and unhindered humanitarian assistance and to ensure basic social services support directly to the population. They highlighted the imperative of preserving respect for human rights, notably those of women and girls, as well as for members of minority groups, and emphasized the importance of countering terrorism and creating an inclusive government to enhance the prospects of stability and reconciliation in Afghanistan.
They expressed grave concerns on the deteriorating situation in Ethiopia and pledged urgent joint efforts towards a cessation of hostilities, peace talks and unhindered humanitarian access. On Sudan, they acknowledged the reinstatement of Dr. Abdalla Hamdok as transitional prime minister, condemned the violence against peaceful protesters since 25 October, and urged credible action to hasten the country’s transition to democracy. They expressed concern regarding the worsening security and humanitarian situation in the central Sahel and called for a maintained joint effort between the countries of the region and international actors, in order to tackle the root causes of instability in the region.