With the United States looking set to step back from the international arena, China will likely take on an larger role to preserve the global economic system of which it has been a major beneficiary.
However, the future looks distinctly multipolar, with no single leader emerging to fill the leadership vacuum created by a US retreat. It is important that incumbent powers such as the US and the European Union make space for the rise of Asia and other centres of power.
Mustapa Mohamed, Minister of International Trade and Industry of Malaysia, who was personally involved in Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) negotiations, said the US withdrawal from the TPP will certainly have an impact on the world economy. He added, however, that China, India and ASEAN are growing fast, confident in their potential, and focused on creating jobs and making growth equitable and sustainable. While supporting the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) being negotiated between ASEAN and six neighbouring countries, and regional integration within Asia, Mohamed underlined the need to continue creating and expanding linkages with the outside world, perhaps by revitalizing the World Trade Organization.
“Things happen for a good reason,” said Li Daokui, Dean, Schwarzman College, Tsinghua University, People’s Republic of China, adding that the TPP was essentially a flawed idea because it makes no sense for a country far from the region to try to forge relations while bypassing China, the biggest trading powerhouse. He said that China would be the natural leader of economic integration in the region. China and ASEAN see eye-to-eye on this, he said, adding that this only leaves India, although China is keen to “get everybody on the bicycle … and pedal hard.”
The United States’ inward turn – at a time when other countries are forging partnerships and creating initiatives such as the BRICS New Development Bank, China’s One Belt, One Road initiative and free trade agreements in the Pacific – will harm the US the most, said Nouriel Roubini, Professor of Economics at the Stern School of Business at New York University, USA.
While China is the undisputed economic and trade leader in Asia, ASEAN is the “great untold success story of our times,” said Kishore Mahbubani, Dean of the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy at the National University of Singapore. He said ASEAN has turned the “Balkans of Asia” into a highly prosperous and peaceful region, and has been a key player in the “miraculous, peaceful rise” of China by creating an enabling regional environment of harmony. The China-ASEAN relationship is marked by mutual respect, he noted, and their trade graph is rising steadily. Mahbubani also made a case for China assuming the leadership role to see RCEP through.
Anthony F. Fernandes, Group Chief Executive Officer of AirAsia, Malaysia, said there is significant intra-ASEAN start-up activity, and members must work towards making borders irrelevant, particularly for digital and fintech businesses, to fully realize the potential of this 700-million-strong market.
Li pointed out that China considers its relationship with the US to be most important, and said China’s leadership style – if and when it assumes greater leadership globally – will be very different from the style with which the US has led. Instead, he said, China follows a more Confucian philosophy of leading by action and not words.
Nevertheless, Mahbubani said, China must prepare to take a more assertive stance if the situation warrants, particularly since, as the world’s largest importer and exporter, China has the largest stake in maintaining a peaceful global system. At the same time, he added, incumbent powers must do away with “absurd rules“ such as those that reserve the top positions at the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund for a US and EU citizen, respectively, and prepare to share power with newly emerging countries.
EU and Singapore launch Digital Partnership
EU and Singapore are strengthening their cooperation as strategic partners. Following the announcement of a new Digital Partnership between the EU and Singapore by President von der Leyen and Prime Minister Lee at the EU-ASEAN summit in December 2022, Commissioner for the Internal Market Thierry Breton and Singapore Minister of Industry and Trade S Iswaran signed a Digital Partnership that will strengthen cooperation between the EU and Singapore on digital technology areas. Executive Vice-President Dombrovskis and Minister Iswaran also signed Digital Trade Principles. A key deliverable of the Digital Partnership, the Principles seek to facilitate the free flow of goods and services in the digital economy, while upholding privacy.
The EU-Singapore Digital Partnership reflects the dynamic relation the EU has built with an open and outward-oriented economy and a vibrant logistics and financial hub in South-East Asia. Both sides have agreed to work together on critical areas such as semiconductors, trusted data flows and data innovation, digital trust, standards, digital trade facilitation, digital skills for workers, and the digital transformation of businesses and public services. This Partnership is in line with the 2030 Digital Compass, the European way for the Digital Decade and represents another key step in the implementation of the EU’s Indo-Pacific Strategy.
The Digital Partnership will, for example:
- Enhance research cooperation in cutting-edge technologies such as Artificial Intelligence (AI) and semiconductors;
- Promote cooperation in regulatory approaches such as in the field of AI and Electronic Identification (eID);
- Foster investments in resilient and sustainable digital infrastructures, including data centres and submarine telecommunications cables for connectivity between the EU and Southeast Asia;
- Ensure trusted cross border data flows in compliance with data protection rules and other public policy objectives;
- Promote information exchange and cooperation in the field of cybersecurity;
- Build alliances in international organisations and standardisation fora;
- Facilitate digital trade, including by working towards joint projects such as paperless trading, electronic invoicing, electronic payments, electronic transactions framework.
Following the signature of the Partnership, an inaugural Digital Partnership Council was held, which set the priority areas of cooperation for the year ahead. It was co-chaired by Commissioner for the Internal Market Thierry Breton and Singapore Minister of Industry and Trade S Iswaran. Singapore and the EU agreed on key priorities of implementation for 2023: exploring common approaches in e-identification and in Artificial Intelligence governance as well as working on projects to facilitate digital trade and SME’s digital transformation.
The signature of the Digital Trade Principles represents a first tangible outcome of our digital partnership and a key step in the implementation of the EU’s Indo-Pacific Strategy. The principles demonstrate that the EU and Singapore share the same commitment to an open, fair and competitive digital economy, without unjustified trade barriers.
The EU-Singapore Digital Partnership is the third signed with key partners in Asia. The first digital partnership was concluded in May 2022 with Japan during the 28th EU-Japan Summit, and the second with the Republic of Korea in November 2022. The Partnerships establish an annual high-level meeting – the Digital Partnership Council – led by Commissioner Breton on the EU side and the relevant Minister for each of the three partner countries. The Digital Partnership Councils provide the political steer, set the priorities for implementation and take stock of the progress achieved.
The Green Deal Industrial Plan: putting Europe’s net-zero industry in the lead
Commission presents a Green Deal Industrial Plan to enhance the competitiveness of Europe’s net-zero industry and support the fast transition to climate neutrality. The Plan aims to provide a more supportive environment for the scaling up of the EU’s manufacturing capacity for the net-zero technologies and products required to meet Europe’s ambitious climate targets.
The Plan builds on previous initiatives and relies on the strengths of the EU Single Market, complementing ongoing efforts under the European Green Deal and REPowerEU. It is based on four pillars: a predictable and simplified regulatory environment, speeding up access to finance, enhancing skills, and open trade for resilient supply chains.
Ursula von der Leyen, President of the European Commission, said: “We have a once in a generation opportunity to show the way with speed, ambition and a sense of purpose to secure the EU’s industrial lead in the fast-growing net-zero technology sector. Europe is determined to lead the clean tech revolution. For our companies and people, it means turning skills into quality jobs and innovation into mass production, thanks to a simpler and faster framework. Better access to finance will allow our key clean tech industries to scale up quickly.”
A predictable and simplified regulatory environment
The first pillar of the plan is about a simpler regulatory framework.
The Commission will propose a Net-Zero Industry Act to identify goals for net-zero industrial capacity and provide a regulatory framework suited for its quick deployment, ensuring simplified and fast-track permitting, promoting European strategic projects, and developing standards to support the scale-up of technologies across the Single Market.
The framework will be complemented by the Critical Raw Materials Act, to ensure sufficient access to those materials, like rare earths, that are vital for manufacturing key technologies, and the reform of the electricity market design, to make consumers benefit from the lower costs of renewables.
Faster access to funding
The second pillar of the plan will speed up investment and financing for clean tech production in Europe. Public financing, in conjunction with further progress on the European Capital Markets Union, can unlock the huge amounts of private financing required for the green transition. Under competition policy, the Commission aims to guarantee a level playing field within the Single Market while making it easier for the Member States to grant necessary aid to fast-track the green transition. To that end, in order to speed up and simplify aid granting, the Commission will consult Member States on an amended Temporary State aid Crisis and Transition Framework and it will revise the General Block Exemption Regulation in light of the Green Deal, increasing notification thresholds for support for green investments. Among others, this will contribute to further streamline and simplify the approval of IPCEI-related projects.
The Commission will also facilitate the use of existing EU funds for financing clean tech innovation, manufacturing and deployment. The Commission is also exploring avenues to achieve greater common financing at EU level to support investments in manufacturing of net-zero technologies, based on an ongoing investment needs assessment. The Commission will work with Member States in the short term, with a focus on REPowerEU, InvestEU and the Innovation Fund, on a bridging solution to provide fast and targeted support. For the mid-term, the Commission intends to give a structural answer to the investment needs, by proposing a European Sovereignty Fund in the context of the review of the Multi-annual financial framework before summer 2023.
To help Member States’ access the REPowerEU funds, the Commission has today adopted new guidance on recovery and resilience plans, explaining the process of modifying existing plans and the modalities for preparing REPowerEU chapters.
As between 35% and 40% of all jobs could be affected by the green transition, developing the skills needed for well-paid quality jobs will be a priority for the European Year of Skills, and the third pillar of the plan will focus on it.
To develop the skills for a people centred green transition the Commission will propose to establish Net-Zero Industry Academies to roll out up-skilling and re-skilling programmes in strategic industries. It will also consider how to combine a ‘Skills-first’ approach, recognising actual skills, with existing approaches based on qualifications, and how to facilitate access of third country nationals to EU labour markets in priority sectors, as well as measures to foster and align public and private funding for skills development.
Open trade for resilient supply chains
The fourth pillar will be about global cooperation and making trade work for the green transition, under the principles of fair competition and open trade, building on the engagements with the EU’s partners and the work of the World Trade Organization. To that end, the Commission will continue to develop the EU’s network of Free Trade Agreements and other forms of cooperation with partners to support the green transition. It will also explore the creation of a Critical Raw Materials Club, to bring together raw material ‘consumers’ and resource-rich countries to ensure global security of supply through a competitive and diversified industrial base, and of Clean Tech/Net-Zero Industrial Partnerships.
The Commission will also protect the Single Market from unfair trade in the clean tech sector and will use its instruments to ensure that foreign subsidies do not distort competition in the Single Market, also in the clean-tech sector.
The European Green Deal, presented by the Commission on 11 December 2019, sets the goal of making Europe the first climate-neutral continent by 2050. The European Climate Law enshrines in binding legislation the EU’s commitment to climate neutrality and the intermediate target of reducing net greenhouse gas emissions by at least 55% by 2030, compared to 1990 levels.
In the transition to a net-zero economy, Europe’s competitiveness will strongly rely on its capacity to develop and manufacture the clean technologies that make this transition possible.
The European Green Deal Industrial Plan was announced by President von der Leyen in her speech at to the World Economic Forum in Davos in January 2023 as the initiative for the EU to sharpen its competitive edge through clean-tech investment and continue leading on the path to climate neutrality. It responds to the invitation by the European Council for the Commission to make proposals by the end of January 2023 to mobilise all relevant national and EU tools and improve framework conditions for investment, with a view to ensuring EU’s resilience and competitiveness.
Russia restored Syrian air base for joint use
Russia and Syria have restored the ‘Al-Jarrah’ military air base in Syria’s north to be jointly used, Russia’s Defence Ministry said.
“Russian and Syrian military personnel restored the destroyed al-Jarrah airfield,” the ministry said on the Telegram messaging. “The joint basing of aviation of the Russian Aerospace Forces and the Syrian Air Force at the al-Jarrah airfield makes it possible to cover the state border.”
The small base east of Aleppo was recaptured from Islamic State fighters in 2017.
Russia has been a dominant military force in Syria since launching air strikes and ground operations there in 2015. It further asserted its presence after the United States pulled out its forces in 2019.
The conflict in Syria, which has killed hundreds of thousands of people, displaced millions and drawn in regional and world powers, has entered into a second decade, although fighting is at a lower intensity than in earlier years, writes ‘The National’ from Abu Dhabi, UAE.
With backing from Russia and Iran, Syrian President Bashar Al Assad’s government has recovered most of its territory.
Turkish-backed opposition fighters still control a pocket in the north-west, and Kurdish fighters backed by the US also control territory near the Turkish border.
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