‘A Globally Connected Europe’ . . .
On Monday, European Union foreign ministers announced the launch of ‘A Globally Connected Europe,’ a global infrastructure plan set to begin in 2022. According to the Council of the European Union, a key institution within the EU that negotiates and adopts legislature, the plan is meant to achieve “sustainable, comprehensive and rules-based” connectivity between Europe and the world by investing in both infrastructure and regulatory frameworks. It also aims to promote European values and advance the EU’s economic, security, development, and foreign policy interests. There have been no details regarding funding and/or budget, but the press release mentions mobilizing the private sector to finance projects.
Potential counter to China’s BRI . . .
This infrastructure plan comes just one month after the G7 announced its infrastructure initiative to rival China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), Build Back Better World (or B3W). While the EU’s strategy document made no direct mention of China, it is clear that, like the B3W, this initiative aims to counter China’s BRI. German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas told reporters after the meeting that, “We see China using economic and financial means to increase its political influence everywhere in the world. It’s useless moaning about this, we must offer alternatives.” Another EU diplomat reportedly involved in drafting the strategy said it has “China written all over it.”
Implications for Asia-Europe connectivity . . .
The EU already signed infrastructure-related partnerships with both Japan and India in 2019 and 2021, respectively. These partnerships were both explicitly aimed at co-ordinating transport, digital, and energy projects. In its latest press release, the EU emphasized the importance of these existing collaborations and called for new partnerships – particularly with the United States and ASEAN. Between the EU and the G7 infrastructure initiative announcements, it appears that countering the BRI is becoming a priority for many countries. While Canada has not made any additional infrastructure commitments beyond the B3W, Minister of Small Business, Export Promotion and International Trade Mary Ng announced in June that Canada is exploring ways to build on Canada-Asia infrastructure collaboration, signalling that this could be an area of increasing importance to Canada as well.