Saturday, October 18, 2008

British expert: Europe seeks co-op with Asia to cope with financial crisis

Europe will seek cooperation with Asian countries in the upcoming seventh Asia-Europe Meeting in Beijing in a bid to cope with the ongoing global financial crisis, a British expert on Asian affairs said in a recent interview with Xinhua.

Under the current circumstances, "Europe will seek to gain cooperation with the Asian financial sector," said Alexander Neill, head of the Asia Program at the Royal United Services Institute for Defence and Security Studies, a leading think tank in London founded in 1831.

Many European countries have invested in Asia, so "it is in Europe's interest to prevent the financial collapse in Asia," said Neill.

As the stock markets in Shanghai, Tokyo, Delhi, and Singapore all suffered recently "as a knock-on effect of the worldwide financial instability which started in the United States," Neill said discussions on the "financial solutions to guard against the collapse of some of the Asia tiger economies" would be urgent.

According to Neill, the current financial crisis would push Europe to achieve closer cooperation with Asia.

"I think Europeans will go to where the capital is, where the growth is," said the expert, adding that "ensuring the sustainable growth in Asia will be helping sustain growth in Europe," and is the key to retaining European investment in Asia.

In the past, Europe lacked a comprehensive approach to Asia, due to the fact that "each member of the European Union has put its own bilateral consideration first when it comes to engagement with Asian countries," said Neill.

But as Europe has realized that future prosperity is linked to success in Asia, it has recently solidified its efforts and policy objectives toward Asia, and a "unified approach" will be a must, added the expert.

"It is also important that there are some discussions with countries like China, India over their specific interests, regional interests, because both China and India are investing heavily locally, particularly Southeast Asia, and also central Asia," Neill said.

Despite the fierce competition in Asia and Europe's concern over problems such as its trade imbalances with India and China, Neill expressed confidence in the joint efforts by Brussels and major Asian countries to create a win-win situation in the future.

During the two-day summit, discussions will also touch upon topics such as energy security, food prices, climate change and anti-terrorism.

"Energy security would be high on the agenda," as energy is vital to sustaining the economy in western Europe and new members of the EU, he said, adding, "Rising energy prices will cause problems for recession in Europe."

Speaking on food security, Neill said that soaring food prices are affecting everyone in the world, especially the poor in Asia.

The seventh ASEM summit will be held in Beijing on Oct. 24-25, to be attended by leaders and delegates from 45 Asian and European countries and organizations.

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