‘I’m sure that everybody would agree that the rise in Asia is the most dramatic change the world economy has seen in the last four decades’, said State Secretary Marianne Hagen of the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs when opening the conference.

ASEM (Asia–Europe Meeting) is made up of 51 member-states and two organizations. Established in 1996, it aims to foster dialogue and cooperation between Europe and Asia.

International panel of experts

‘Norway joined ASEM in 2012. For Norway, ASEM has become an important platform for engagement with Asian countries, and also for engaging with our European partners in how to relate to Asian countries and economies,’ explained NUPI Director Ulf Sverdrup in his speech of welcome.

The expert panel was composed of Director of the China Program at the Stimson Center (Washington DC;), Yun Sun, Theresa Fallon, Director of CREAS (Centre for Russia Europe Asia Studies), Brussels; and NUPI Senior Research Fellows Arne Melchior and Hans Jørgen Gåsemyr.

Watch the entire conference here:

Building bridges

Connectivity is a key issue for ASEM. That was also the main topic for Monday’s half-day conference, titled A more connected Asia – new possibilities in Europe?

‘Connectivity is a buzzword of our time. Trade and infrastructure projects are booming in Asia, and we also see many efforts and attempts at building bridges between Europe and Asia’, Sverdrup said in his introductory remarks.

The biggest initiative in this respect is the Chinese-led Belt and Road Initiative (BRI; also known as the One  Belt, One Road  Initiative) a development strategy formulated by the Chinese government to create closer connectivity and trade among between China and a range of countries inside and outside Eurasia.

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Yun Sun, whose research focuses on Chinese foreign policy, spoke on the motivations, limitations and implementation of the BRI, emphasizing the importance of the initiative:

'BRI is a great plan with the potential to change geopolitics and geoeconomics in Eurasia and the Asia Pacific for decades to come.'

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Could harm European trade

CREAS Director Theresa Fallon stressed the importance of Asia for the European economy:

'The EU is China’s largest trading partner and the largest investor in ASEAN. The EU’s foreign-policy interests require the safety of European commerce with Asia. If anything happens in this region, it could hurt European trade, especially on the maritime routes.'

NUPI Senior Research Fellow Arne Melchior gave an overview of the economic impact of the Belt and Road initiative, and not least who will benefit from the BRI.  Using a specifically NUPI developed economic model, Melchior and colleagues will examine these questions in their further research.

Would you like to know more about NUPI’s resources on Asia? Check out our research programme NEAR (NUPI Europe-Asia Research Centre).