EU-Japan Connectivity Partnership announced . . .
European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe have signed a partnership agreement to build infrastructure – especially transportation, energy, and digital services – to improve connectivity with Asia. The EU will back up its pledge with a US$65.48-billion guarantee fund, and both sides have agreed to attract more investment from development banks and the private investor. So far, the agreement has not identified specific projects, but the parties are indicating they plan to invest in Southeast Asia.
Competition for China’s Belt and Road Initiative . . .
Although the agreement did not specifically mention China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), it promotes economic and ecological sustainability. This is a marked distinction from the BRI, which has been criticized for lacking such commitments. Although some EU members have been positive toward the BRI, the EU as a collective refuses to endorse it or collaborate with China on BRI projects. Indeed, the EU is seeking ways to play a leading role in promoting its own strategy of connecting Asia and Europe, and restricting Chinese investments in the European Union. Here, the EU’s interests align with Japan’s geopolitical interest in competing with China.
Joining the ‘Quad’ . . .
Sharing their concerns about China’s expanding role in world politics, the EU appears to be siding with the U.S. and key allies in the Asia Pacific where major infrastructure plans are concerned. Last month, EU representatives joined in the sixth Trilateral Forum Tokyo, which includes not only the EU, Japan, and the U.S., but also ‘Quad’ members India and Australia, which have both raised concerns about Beijing’s BRI strategy and its security implications. The forum, and the EU’s recent agreement with Japan, demonstrate the EU’s interests in increasing co-operation with like-minded powers in the Indo-Pacific and providing funding sources that are an alternative to the BRI.
- Financial Times: Japan and EU sign deal in riposte to China’s Belt and Road
- Japan Times: The Japan-EU partnership grows deeper
- DW: EU-Japan take on China’s BRI with own Silk Road