With China and India’s rise as economic powers, Asia has become a new global center of gravity. Yet despite its status as a major strategic stakeholder in the Asia-Pacific, the U.S. has lost sight of the region. The first in a new Carnegie Europe Breakfast series brought 18 senior European policy officials, journalists, and scholars together to discuss the new balance of power in the region and how the U.S. and Europe can engage with it more effectively.

The U.S. and Asia

Douglas H. Paal of the Carnegie Endowment gave a general overview of the evolution of U.S. foreign policy in Asia. According to Paal, under the current administration U.S. engagement with the region has not reflected the region’s increasing importance. He presented the arguments from his policy brief, Asia: Shaping the Future (also available in Chinese) in which he advocates for a new U.S. strategic vision toward Asia. The next U.S. administration should conduct a reassessment and prioritization of U.S. involvement in Asian multilateral institutions. Additionally, it would benefit from appointing a cabinet-level special envoy to Asia with significant and practical Asia experience. Ideally, this would put Asia higher on the agenda in Washington D.C. Paal stressed that China will continue to grow disproportionately to the U.S. He ended by stating that a strong sense of suspicion of China in the U.S. and elsewhere persists, and that this could adversely affect global interests.

The EU and Asia

Geoffrey Barret, Adviser at the Asia Unit of the External Relations Directorate General of the European Parliament, gave a brief history of EU foreign policy in Asia. He stated that EU ties with the major Asian players have become far stronger in the last few years and emphasized that the EU has 3 strategic partners in Asia – Japan, China and India. He explained that the EU has become more involved in multi-lateral institutions in Asia. Particularly important have been the Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM) and EU relations with the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN), for which the EU has proved an inspirational example.

Questions & Answers

The question and answer period focused on opportunities for strengthening U.S. and EU relationships in the Asia-Pacific. Specific comments were made on Russia-China relations in light of the conflict in Georgia, the contrast between the way in which Russia and China announced their ‘return to the international stage’ on August the 8th and what China’s critical response indicates about its role in the world (with reference to the Shanghai Cooperation Organization). The discussion also covered which of the Asia based multilateral institutions are the most significant and the ways in which the EU and the U.S. can make themselves more attractive partners to Asian states by changing the terminology used in negotiations and discussion. Finally, some comments touched on the attitudes of the EU and the U.S. toward Pakistan, including the point that there should be far greater emphasis on the importance of Pakistan in Asia.