Philippines admits Norway, Switzerland Bangladesh to Join ASEM

Asians to help Europe rise again economically

Southeast and other Asian countries are expected to raise political issues, while European countries will drum up their need for economic development and investments in the debt-ridden region, as Asian and European leaders converge during at the Asian-European meeting (Asem) in Laos starting on Monday, sources and analysts told Gulf News.

"All these [efforts] seek to achieve one aim — to stir Asia and Europe towards a direction where we will progress and lead in the world economy," President Benigno Aquino said, as he also talked of seeking investments from European countries, protection of overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) in debt-ridden European countries, and political support from Europe over political woes due to overlapping claims in the South China Sea.

"It is but natural for countries to prioritise the plight of their people in the midst of an economic crisis. We should stand for the protection of the rights of thousands of OFWs in Europe. Our regions benefited from the diligence of our migrant workers," Aquino explained as he campaigned for the welfare of OFWs in many European countries.

There are more than 746,000 Filipinos in European countries. Twenty-five per cent of Filipino seafarers are in European-flagged vessels.

$2.1 billion out of $ 20.1 billion remittances came from OFWs in Europe last year, Central Bank said, adding that monies of the OFWs have been boosting domestic consumption in the Philippines.

Airing of Asia's political woes

At the same time, Aquino symbolically represented other Asian and Southeast Asian leaders who would want to raise their respective political issues at Asem, hoping for Europe's support, when he said, "The Asemwill gather views to craft a peaceful and fair agreement on the West Philippine Sea." He referred to overlapping disputes in the South China Sea.

China, Taiwan, and Vietnam claim the whole of the South China Sea based on historical rights. Brunei, Malaysia, and Philippines claim parts of the Spratly Archipelago in the South China Sea based on the provision of the United Nations Convention on the law of the Sea that countries have 200 nautical miles exclusive economic zones starting from their shores.

Japan and China, Asia's two economic drivers, have been recently engaged in the same overlapping claims in the South China Sea.

China's fate

Although China is seen as Asia and Asean's alleged antagonist because of its flexing of maritime muscle over overlapping claims in the South China Sea, many European countries see China as Asia's economic super star — which can extend investments and bail-out funds for Europe.

However, China's own economy has slowed down, maybe also due to EU's economic woes, observers said.

The hard reality is China must stimulate its own domestic growth, preventing it from touching its $3 trillion (Dh11.01 trillion) foreign exchange reserves for bailout funds for the EU.

Japan's economy, although still one of the world's strongest, has not been growing for the past ten years.

It is not known how many rich Asian countries will invest in Europe, or extend bail-out funds for Europe. For sure, it will be a big market for European products and a ripe region for bigger European investments on energy and natural resources.

New ASEM Member countries

More European countries join Asem Meanwhile, the Philippines will support the admission of Norway, Switzerland and Bangladesh into the Asem meeting, said a Philippine official.

This will increase Asem's membership to 51. It was established in 1996.

More European countries want accession to Asem, a sign of EU's need for Asia as a market and partner, said the same official who requested for anonymity.

Asem used to include 27 member states of the European Union (EU), the European Commission, nine other Asian countries, 10 member countries of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean), and the Asean Secretariat.

Moreover, Europe's star studded leaders such as Presidents Herman Van Rompuy of the European Council, Jose Manuel Barroso of the European Commission, Eveline Widmer-Schlumpf of Switzerland, and Francois Hollande of France; Prime Ministers Mario Monti of Italy, Jen Stoltenberg of Norway and Donald Tusk of Poland are expected to show a united front, that European countries are not bolting out of EU; that the euro will remain EU's monetary system.

Many Asians believe it is "pay-back time" for Europe which used to be critical of Asean's acceptance of Myanmar into the regional bloc because of an alleged bad human rights record of military generals who were responsible for the lengthy detention of democracy icon and Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi and other political prisoners there.

Even Suu Kyi who has been released from prison has called on the West to lift economic sanctions on Myanmar.

The Asem meeting, held every two years, will symbolically serve as a platform for Asian and European leaders to face each other in a new world order — in which Asia, the new kid on the world's economic block, is a young and vibrant region with dynamic economic potential, analysts said.

Gulf News

Previous Post
Next Post


Hello traveler! Thank you for leaving comment!. We encourage responsible and peaceful comments that add dimension our discussion. No Profanity , No bashing or hate speech, please. You can express your opinion without slamming others or making derogatory remarks.

Investment Recommendation: Bitcoin Investments

Where to buy Bitcoins?

For Philippine customers: You could buy Bitcoin Online at
For outside the Philippines customers  may buy Bitcoins online at