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I add my voice to the Chancellor's [of Austria, Sebastian Kurz] in thanking our Asian partners - in particular the two Ministers that are with us, but also all the delegations. In total, European and Asian delegations are 53, which gives you the magnitude of these two days, with over 40 delegations represented at the level of Head of State or Government, and the others at ministerial level.
I think that it is the ASEM Summit – the Summit between Asia and Europe – at the highest political level in recent years. This tells you the importance we both attach to this partnership. Definitely, out of these two days of work, we come with a reinforced global partnership between Europe and Asia.
What we agree together matters not only for the two of us, but also for the entire world. You know the numbers: Europe and Asia together are 55% of global trade, 60% of the global population, 65% of the global economy, and 75% of global tourism. If we continue on the list, you realise that together we represent a real global power.
This Summit has allowed us to translate this global weight that we share into concrete policy initiatives that can make a real difference for the world. The Chancellor [of Austria, Sebastian Kurz] already mentioned three key areas for intense cooperation: on climate change action; on free and fair trade; and on digital.
I would like to mention a couple of more points that were at the centre of our work: our common work on security; the issues that are on top of our foreign policy agendas; and strengthening cooperation between us on international and regional security.
If we see developments in our regions - both in Asia and in Europe - we see the need to protect and promote a rules-based international order - not only on trade, but also on security - and a cooperative approach to foreign policy.
In particular, we discussed our full support and our willingness to accompany the diplomatic process on the Korean peninsula. In this respect I would like to commend and appreciate the leadership of the Republic of Korea - President [of the Republic of Korea] Moon [Jae-in] and Foreign Minister [of the Republic of Korea] Kang [Kyung-wha], who have brought new hope not only on the Korean peninsula, not only in Asia, but in the entire world. And we are committed together - Europe and Asia - to make these negotiations a success and accompany them in the best possible manner.
We also share the intention to uphold the multilateral system with the United Nations at its core, and all other multilateral non-proliferation agreements, starting from the JCPOA [Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action – the Iran nuclear deal].
Another point we discussed at length with a lot of understanding and convergences is the need to increase connectivity between our two continents. Just last Monday, a few days ago, the EU Foreign Ministers agreed on ways to strengthen connectivity between Europe and Asia in a sustainable, comprehensive and rules-based manner and I am happy to see that this approach is also shared by our Asian partners. So, indeed, we have decided to use all the potential for bringing Europe and Asia closer together, not only on the level of transport and infrastructure, but also on digital and economic links.
As the Chancellor [Sebastian Kurz] said, there is a clear commitment between us to maintain and strengthen open and free trade, to work for the reform of the WTO [World Trade Organisation]. Later this afternoon – in a few hours - we will sign new partnership, free trade and investment agreements with Singapore, only a few months after we signed important agreements with Japan and others are in the making. So there is, I would say, a new wave of agreements – trade agreements, but also partnership agreements – that the European Union is promoting around the world and in the Asia-Pacific region in particular.
Let me conclude by saying that this Summit was accompanied by many important side-events that reported to us the results of their work – civil society, business, trade unions, youth, parliamentarians from both our continents. And this is the real essence of our partnership: bringing people together and empowering people. I think that this Summit gives us the possibility use the full potential of our joint strength.
Q: High Representative, we saw that you had bilateral meetings with Cambodia and Myanmar. I wondered, did you hear anything today that would avoid both those countries losing their special trade status under 'Everything But Arms' (EBA)?
I had bilateral meetings with both. They are in different stages.
With Cambodia, we have taken the decision to start the process of temporary withdrawal of the EBA trade preferences. I have discussed with the Prime Minister [of Cambodia, Hun Sen] and his team what our expectations are for what should happen for this not to go on - in particular the improvement of the political, democratic climate. I would say that there is a lot of concern in Europe, but not only in Europe, about the dissolution in November last year of the main opposition party and in general terms the narrowed democratic space for political opposition and civil society.
We discussed this. I cannot say that we found solutions to any of these issues but the European Union's approach is always that of engaging and having a dialogue, especially when problems arise.
We agreed that our teams would work together, starting in these days and in the weeks to come, to go through a long list of issues that we have raised together with our decision regarding the trade preferences.
I am always hopeful - you know me - that positive change could come. So the work will continue.
With Myanmar it is a different stage. We are in the process of sending in the coming weeks a mission to Myanmar to discuss the issues that worry us related to, in particular, the situation in the Rakhine State on which the European Union has been very active – not only on the humanitarian side, to support the Rohingya in Bangladesh and also elsewhere - but also on the political level, trying to support the full implementation of the Memorandum of Understanding that was signed bilaterally between Myanmar and Bangladesh, and also the MoUs [Memoranda of Understanding] that were signed with the UNHCR [United Nations Refugees Agency] and the UNDP [United Nations Development Programme]. I discussed this also with Filippo Grandi [Secretary-General of the UNHCR] in the recent weeks.
I encouraged the authorities of Myanmar to fully implement the memorandums they have signed, the agreements they have signed to work, in particular, on accountability because the results of the UN Independent International Fact-Finding Mission [on Myanmar] are extremely serious and worrying and they have to respond to these kind of allegations and show willingness to have accountability and transparency and to address the issues that are raised there.
We will continue to accompany Myanmar on its path towards democracy. It is a difficult process, we always knew it. Our support to the democratisation of the country will not stop now but this does not mean that we will close our eyes to violations that the international community sees as worrying.
But on the EBA - the trade preferences, the decision has not been taken yet but obviously there are rules that we need to follow and you know that our trade preferences have the respect for human rights at their core.
So, I hope that there will be signs on the Myanmar authorities' side that could allow us to avoid that decision to be taken in the future.
Q: South Korea has a Comprehensive Free Trade Agreement with the EU. Could you give us a realistic sense for people in the UK, once the UK leaves the EU, will the UK government be able to achieve the same level of free trade agreement with South Korea? Will it actually achieve even better terms with South Korea? Or given that the UK is a single country as opposed to a big block like the EU, will the terms of the free trade agreement between the UK and South Korea be on worse terms?
If I can remind us all that as long as the UK is part of the European Union, it cannot negotiate nor conclude any separate trade agreement and this includes the transition period.
Link to the video: https://ec.europa.eu/avservices/video/player.cfm?ref=I162549