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Asian Leaders Call for Rules-Based Geopolitics, Reject Unilateral, Protectionist Moves

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With a rapidly oscillating geopolitical dynamic, one underscored by escalating trade tensions between major powers, Asian leaders called for adherence to a “rules-based” order, and rejected unilateral and protectionist moves, on the closing day of the World Economic Forum on ASEAN, held in Ha Noi, Viet Nam.

“I think we need to establish rule-based international order and any unilateral challenge to the status quo; the international community needs to stand up against it,” remarked Taro Kono, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Japan. The “collapse of multilateralism, stemming from the trade war” between the United States and China, he reiterated, must follow the same principles and existing liberal international order.

ASEAN leaders and their counterparts from Japan, South Korea and Sri Lanka echoed concerns over rising unilateralism with regard to rising trade tensions and territorial concerns in the South China Sea, raising critical questions about the geopolitical implications of the global rebalancing.

“Looking at the geopolitics in Asia and friction between America and China, I am concerned about the rebalancing of the global order,” observed Ranil Wickremesinghe, Prime Minister of Sri Lanka. “What will happen to multilateral law? What we have built up is multilateral law. Will that law be decayed, diminished or can it be strengthened?”

China’s territorial moves in the South China Sea, commented Lynn Kuok, Associate Fellow, International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) in Singapore, will reveal what type of regulatory environment will prevail: “I will be watching out for developments in the South China Sea. China is consolidating its control over the region and resources. This matters because it will change the balance of power in the region and whether the balance of power in the region is governed by might or right,” noted Kuok.

While there are clear regional fractures, Kang Kyung-Wha, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Korea, pointed out that there are also moments of geopolitical alignment, such as current moves to advance denuclearization efforts on the Korean Peninsula, which look much more promising than they did a year ago.

“On US-China relations, if you look at just the trade side it does look tense, but I think these are two big players on the global stage with strategic calculations that sometimes diverge, but also at times converge. And I think on the North Korea nuclear issue, they have converged,” said Kang, ahead of a third summit on the issue scheduled to be held in Pyongyang next week.

Rejecting nationalistic and protectionist trends that are resonating across the region, Pham Binh Minh, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs of Viet Nam, turned to the Fourth Industrial Revolution, the theme of the meeting, cautioning that future growth must be inclusive otherwise disparity will become a geopolitical threat. “It is undeniable that the revolution offers tremendous opportunities; but if a country cannot seize the opportunities,” he said, “They can be left behind.”

In addition to traditional geopolitical threats, such as maritime security and freedom of navigation and trade, the Japanese foreign minister said that one of his biggest geopolitical concerns is catastrophic weather changes on the back of climate change.

“The biggest concern is probably climate change, the sea water level is very high and we are getting stronger typhoons, stronger cyclones, heavier rain,” said Kono of Japan’s position, “Once-in-a-hundred-years rain turns out to be once every two years. It is not just an environmental issue, but involves water supply management and food security. We really need to be serious about taking care of this issue.”

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EU plans to invest €9.2 billion in key digital technologies

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The Digital Europe Programme is a new €9.2 billion funding programme whose goal is to ensure that all Europeans have the skills and the infrastructure needed to meet a full range of digital challenges.

It is part of a strategy to further develop the digital single market, which could help to create four million jobs and boost the EU’s economy with €415 billion every year while increasing the EU’s international competitiveness.

“For too many years, Europe’s tech sector has lagged behind third countries such as the US and China. We need a coherent Union-wide approach and an ambitious investment to secure a solution to the chronic mismatch between the growing demand for the latest technology and the available supply in Europe,” said Austrian ALDE member Angelika Mlinar, one of the MEPs repsonsible for steering the plans through Parliament.

A part of the budget  would be allocated to encourage small and medium-sized enterprises and public administrations to use technology more often and better, while other parts will cover strategically important fields such as supercomputers, artificial intelligence and cybersecurity.

“We can count on European excellence when it comes to research and innovation, but our businesses, especially SMEs, still found it difficult to access and take advantage of new solutions,” said Milnar. “This programme has been crucially designed to tackle the low take-up of existing testing technologies. We are on track to deliver one of the most promising and necessary funds for Europe’s future.”

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ADB Releases Annual Report, Financial Results for 2018

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The Asian Development Bank (ADB) released its Annual Report for 2018 today. The report presents ADB’s important operational and organizational milestones over the past year, including key numbers and data of ADB operations, activities, and financial results.

It also focuses on the adoption of ADB’s new long-term corporate strategy, Strategy 2030, approved in July 2018, and highlights the strategic transition in progress across all aspects of ADB’s operations and organization.

The demand for ADB assistance continued to grow in 2018. New commitments included $21.6 billion in loans, grants, and investments from ADB’s own resources, exceeding the target of $19.71 billion and up 10% from 2017.

Private sector operations reached $3.14 billion, a 37% increase from 2017, which is 14.5% of ADB’s overall commitment. The result reflected ADB’s long-term strategy to increase support for private enterprise, especially in new markets and sectors, to create more high-quality jobs and to mobilize private financial resource for development.

ADB also successfully mobilized $14 billion in cofinancing from bilateral and multilateral agencies and other financing partners, including $7.17 billion in cofinancing from ADB’s private sector operations. The increase in cofinancing saw total new commitments reach $35.82 billion in 2018, a 13% increase over 2017, reflecting the importance of partnerships in addressing Asia and the Pacific’s continuously growing development needs.

Disbursements, a key indicator for successful project implementation, also improved, rising to $14.19 billion in 2018, an increase of 24% from 2017.

In his message to stakeholders in the report, ADB President Mr. Takehiko Nakao said that Strategy 2030 had energized ADB and positioned the Manila-based lender well to help countries in Asia and the Pacific cope with the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead.

“As our region continues to develop and transform, so too must ADB,” said Mr. Nakao. “Strategy 2030 provides us with a clear roadmap to meet the needs of our developing member countries (DMCs) and guide our operations for the next decade. We set out clear corporate targets to significantly increase operations, to build climate and disaster resilience, address gender equality, and mobilize long-term private financing.”

ADB continued to deliver on its climate commitments in 2018 with $3.6 billion in financing approved. ADB is on target to double its annual climate financing to $6 billion in approvals by 2020.

ADB also made significant progress in designing projects with a gender focus. In 2018, 47% of ADB’s support, on a three-year-average term, included elements that directly improved the lives of women and girls in the region.

The report also records ADB’s successful efforts to strengthen its role as a leading provider of development knowledge and expertise to DMCs seeking support to implement policies, programs, and projects that utilize international best practices and learnings.

Internally, ADB continued to implement initiatives to improve operational efficiency and business processes. The report describes key areas of reform that support Strategy 2030, including information technology reforms to modernize ADB’s systems and infrastructure.

In 2018, to complement its print and online editions, ADB produced a new format of the Annual Report that is optimized for smart devices and screens. The new format includes rich multimedia content and enables standard touchscreen features such as swipe, tap, and scroll.

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New ACP-EU partnership: EU discusses future EU- Caribbean relations

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As the EU works to modernise its relations with the 79 countries in Africa, the Caribbean and the Pacific (ACP), chief negotiators Neven Mimica and Robert Dussey met with ACP Caribbean leaders for a dialogue on the regional EU-Caribbean pillar in the context of the post Cotonou ACP-EU partnership.

Today’s discussions form part of broader regional consultations and are focused on the Caribbean’s specific needs and priorities for the coming years. The outcome will guide the negotiators’ work in creating a tailor-made EU-Caribbean partnership within the future ACP-EU agreement.

Commissioner for International Cooperation and Development Neven Mimica, who is the EU’s chief negotiator said: “Today’s discussions confirmed a shared vision for the future and a good understanding of the pressing challenges we need to tackle together. In this spirit, the EU’s relationship with the Caribbean will deepen under our future ACP-EU agreement and open up fresh opportunities”.

Professor Robert Dussey, the ACP’s chief negotiator, Chair of the Ministerial Central Negotiating Group, and Minister for Foreign Affairs, Cooperation and Africa integration of Togo, said: “These regional consultations proved to bring valuable perspectives on this region’s priorities to our talks. Productive exchanges between the two parties will contribute enormously to the current negotiations for the new post-Cotonou Agreement, and especially to those which will begin on the Caribbean Regional Protocol. Today’s meeting follows the consultation held in Samoa with our ACP Pacific partners in February. The Africa consultation is due to take place soon in Eswatini.”

The Minister of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade of Jamaica, Kamina Johnson-Smith, added: “Within the framework of the ongoing ACP-EU post-Cotonou negotiations, the Government of Jamaica is pleased to host the regional consultations for the Caribbean and to have the opportunity to jointly explore with our EU partners some of the urgent issues related to our developmental aspirations.”

Background 

The Cotonou Agreement currently governing ACP-EU relations is due to expire in 2020. Negotiations on a new ACP-EU partnership were launched in New York on 28 September 2018 in the margins of the United Nations General Assembly.

The two first series of talks mainly focused on the common foundation at ACP-EU level. This contains the values and principles that bring the EU and ACP countries together. It also indicates the strategic priority areas that the two sides intend to prospectively work on together. In the future agreement, on top of the foundation there will be three action-oriented regional pillars to focus on each region’s specific needs. Through the future partnership, EU and ACP countries will seek closer political cooperation on the world stage. Together, they represent more than half of all UN member countries and unite over 1.5 billion people. 

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