A European pivot towards Asia?
Inter-regionalism in a new era
in The European Union in the Asia-Pacific
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The idea of a return to Asia reflected the growing economic and strategic influence of the Asia Pacific region, particularly in the light of the failure of Western markets and the continuing rise of Chinese economic power. Europe too has begun to reconsider the state of its relations with East Asia. This view has gained a high level of support from European Asia-watchers and politicians, not least the EU High Representative herself. In the 1990s, the EU launched a ‘new strategy’ towards the East Asian region, and participated in the establishment of the Asia–Europe Meeting (ASEM) in 1996. This chapter examines this apparently renewed European approach to Asia, within the context of inter-regional relations through the ASEM framework, and as a European tool for the collective management of external relations with Asia. It is argued that weak institutional structures combine with a rise in the number of bilateral agreements and contentious intra-regional dynamics within Asia and Europe, thereby diluting the effect of any EU pivot. Inter-regionalism should thus be regarded as an issue and process-led form of managing foreign policy, rather than a general narrative for understanding relations among regions today.

The European Union in the Asia-Pacific

Rethinking Europe’s strategies and policies

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