chapter  32
12 Pages

The Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM)

ByJulie Gilson

As the list of contents to this volume demonstrates, the Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM) sits among a proliferation of regionally active institutional, government-to-government frameworks within the Asian region today. It currently brings together in regular meetings representatives of around half of the world’s gross domestic product and over 60 per cent of global trade. And, as the citizens of ASEM states count for around 60 per cent of the world’s population, it seems obvious to assume that it represents a major force in contemporary global politics and economics.1 In fact, this is not the case, and instead in nearly 15 years of existence ASEM has clocked up an impressive quota of diplomatic air miles but very little in the way of substantive and value-added cooperation. This is not to suggest that ASEM has achieved nothing. In fact, as will be shown in this chapter, work on trade dialogue, environmental agreement, the participation of civil society actors, and certain forms of financial assistance has been fruitful. But at a macro level, at which two growing and deepening regions putatively come together to pool their considerable resources in the face of globalization and regionalism, there is little evidence to suggest that ASEM is regarded as a priority on the diplomatic agenda for its member governments. This chapter evaluates its work so far in bringing two distinct and different regions together; examines the sectors in which it has been most active; and proposes that in order to remain relevant ASEM needs to adopt a more ad hoc, strategic and issue-led approach to Asia-Europe relations.