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EU priorities in Indo-Pacific shift to counter China

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The European Union set out a formal strategy on Thursday to increase its presence in the Indo-Pacific and counter China’s rising power, although Australia’s decision to cancel an arms contract with France may complicate cooperation.

Here are the main focus areas of the EU’s strategy:

TRADE: The EU will work to finalise trade negotiations with Australia and New Zealand, seek a deal with India and strengthen stronger ties with countries where it already has a trade deal, such as South Korea. The EU will also pursue a trade and investment agreement with Taiwan.

CLIMATE CHANGE: The EU aims to help the transition towards green energy in the Indo-Pacific region, making renewable hydrogen a priority.

OCEANS: Promising a greater diplomatic presence, the EU aims to help uphold the United Nations Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) to prevent overfishing in the region, offering expertise in protecting marine areas, weather forecasting and limiting pollution of the seas.

DIGITAL: The EU wants to start talks with Japan, South Korea and Singapore on deeper cooperation on data flows, data-based innovation and allowing more digital trade. It also wants to work more closely with India on emerging technologies such as Artificial Intelligence and fifth-generation mobile networks.

INFRASTRUCTURE: The EU wants to collaborate with Japan, India and Austria on transport links, particularly in aviation and maritime sectors, as well as ensuring that development banks and export agencies link the bloc more closely to Asia. The EU on Wednesday launched a new plan to rival China’s Belt and Road infrastructure strategy, which it calls “Global Gateway”.

SECURITY AND DEFENCE: The EU, the world’s largest trading bloc, will seek closer maritime ties with Australia, New Zealand, Indonesia and Japan, promising more naval deployments to patrol trade routes that China considers its own. It is also sending military advisers to EU delegations in the region.

HEALTH: The EU wants to help poorer countries in the Indo-Pacific to secure access to COVID-19 vaccines. The EU also wants to develop cooperation to secure supply lines for medicines and medical equipment, reducing reliance on China. 

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