European Union and Asian leaders met in Brussels on October 18 to discuss free trade, the Iran nuclear deal and fighting global warming. The regional summit included all EU leaders, plus Switzerland and Norway, and 21 Asian leaders, including Chinese Premier Li Keqiang.
As reported by the Reuters news agency, the 51 gathered leaders were set to show “strong support” for the World Trade Organisation that US President Donald Trump had threatened to quit, and express “profound alarm” about climate change. This is according to a draft communique seen by Reuters.
When asked if the gathering was anti-Trump, EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini said: “We don’t organise meetings against anyone”. However, Malaysian Deputy Prime Minister Wan Azizah said the US president’s trade tariffs had united EU and Asia.
“Of course, there’s more reason for why we should come closer together. We are working together to help each other for free and fair trade,” she told reporters when asked about Trump.
On October 19, the EU and Asian leaders will underline “their joint commitment to open, free and non-discriminatory trade” and “to fight all forms of protectionism”, according to the draft communique.
Before their meeting, Norwegian Prime Minister Erna Solberg told an Asia-Europe business forum that trade had pulled millions of people out of absolute poverty, but that countries could not ignore the environmental impact of trade and development.
Norway and the EU asked the WTO on October 18 to set up a dispute resolution panel to address US tariffs on steel and aluminium, Norwegian Foreign Minister Ine Eriksen Soereide said.
“We believe that additional U.S. duty on steel and aluminium is contrary to WTO rules,” she told Norwegian news agency NTB.
According to Reuters, however, the EU is trying not to side with China against the United States. On October 16, EU trade chief Cecilia Malmstrom held talks with US Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross in Brussels on improving trade relations, though Washington accused the bloc of moving too slowly in negotiations.
Also, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker was due to discuss subsidies with Li at a lunch on October 19, diplomats said.
Reuters noted that bolstering the nuclear deal with Iran signed by global powers in 2015, and from which Trump withdrew the United States in May, is also another priority of the summit.
Leaders will also call on North Korea to “completely, verifiably and irreversibly dismantle all its nuclear and weapons of mass destruction”, according to the draft final statement.
They will also re-commit to the 2015 Paris climate pact that also Trump pulled out of, pledging to develop more clean energy.
In related news, the is slated to sign a free-trade deal with Singapore on October 19. The bloc has also reached a free-trade agreement with Vietnam. Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc told the business forum that he hoped the deal could be ready to enter into force next year.