East Asia and the Pacific: Extraordinary Meeting of the Friends of the Lower Mekong

On February 2, Counselor Tom Shannon and Senior Advisor to the Secretary Ambassador David Thorne led a U.S. delegation to the Extraordinary Meeting of the Friends of the Lower Mekong in Pakse, Laos. The Friends of the Lower Mekong, a donor coordination group, came together with the countries of the Lower Mekong to discuss the connection between water resources, energy needs and food security. Accompanying Counselor Shannon and Ambassador Thorne were representatives from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), Environmental Protection Agency, and the Department of Energy.

The health of the Mekong River is essential to the economic growth and sustainable development of the region. In Cambodia, the Mekong supports the rich biodiversity of a watershed that provides more than 60% of the protein intake for the entire country. The river irrigates the “rice bowl” in Vietnam, where more than half of the nation’s rice production is concentrated in the provinces that make up the Mekong delta. In Laos, Thailand, and Burma, the Mekong is an important artery for transportation, a water source for aquaculture and agriculture, and a generator of electricity.

Meeting participants discussed the challenges of ensuring a future in which economic growth does not come at the expense of clean air, clean water and healthy ecosystems. The meeting brought together senior officials from Laos, Burma, Cambodia, Thailand, and Vietnam alongside representatives from the United States, the Mekong River Commission, the Asian Development Bank, the World Bank, the European Union, and the governments of Australia, Denmark, Finland, Germany, Japan, Korea, the Netherlands, and Sweden.

At the meeting, the U.S. delegation announced several new initiatives, including the launch of USAID’s Sustainable Mekong Energy Initiative (SMEI). Through the SMEI, the United Stateswill promote the use of alternative energy and low-emission technologies. The delegation also announced that the Department of State will organize and send a Sustainable Energy Business Delegation to the region later this year.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers announced that it will provide technical assistance on hydropower management. In conjunction, Counselor Shannon and Ambassador Thorne announced that the State Department will contribute $500,000 in support of a Mekong River study on the impacts of hydropower on the community and environment.

The Friends of the Lower Mekong will also work together to strengthen the capacity of Lower Mekong countries to more effectively implement social and environmental safeguards such as environmental impact assessments and strategic environmental analyses. The U.S. government, Asian Development Bank, World Bank, Japanese International Cooperation Agency and the Government of Australia plan to jointly develop a Regional Impact Assessment Training Center at the Asian Institute of Technology Center in Vietnam.

Under the auspices of the Lower Mekong Initiative the United States is continuing successful projects like Smart Infrastructure for the Mekong (SIM) to provide technical assistance to the region on land and water use management, renewable energy, and infrastructure development. $1.5 million will be spent on SIM projects in the Mekong region this year.

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Secretary's Remarks: From a Swift Boat to a Sustainable Mekong

More than four decades ago, as a young lieutenant in the “brown-water Navy,” my crew and I journeyed down the Mekong River on an American gunboat. Even with the war all around us, in quiet moments we couldn’t help but be struck by the beauty and the power of the river — the water buffalo, the seafood we traded for with local fishermen, the mangrove on the sides of the river and inlets.

Long ago, those waterways of war became waters of peace and commerce — the United States and Vietnam are in the 20th year of a flourishing relationship.

Today, the Mekong faces a new and very different danger — one that threatens the livelihoods of tens of millions and symbolizes the risk climate change poses to the entire planet. Unsustainable growth and development along the full reach of the river are endangering its long-term health and the region’s prosperity.

From the deck of our swift boat in 1968 and 1969, we could see that the fertile Mekong was essential to the way of life and economy of the communities along its banks. In my many visits to the region since then as a senator and secretary of state, I’ve watched the United States and the countries of Southeast Asia work hand in hand to pursue development in a way that boosts local economies and sustains the environment.

Despite those efforts, the Mekong is under threat. All along its 2,700 miles, the growing demand for energy, food, and water is damaging the ecosystem and jeopardizing the livelihoods of 240 million people. Unsustainable development and the rapid pace of hydropower development are undermining the food and water needs of the hundreds of millions of people who depend on the river.

What’s at stake? In Cambodia, the Mekong supports the rich biodiversity of a watershed that provides more than 60 percent of the country’s protein. In Vietnam, it irrigates the country’s “rice bowl” that feeds the fast-growing economy. Throughout the region, the river is a vital artery for transportation, agriculture, and electricity generation.

The Mekong rivals the Amazon for biodiversity. Giant Mekong catfish and the Irrawaddy dolphin are unique to the river, and scientists are constantly identifying new species of animals and plants across the delta. Some of these newly discovered species could one day hold the promise of new lifesaving drugs.

The challenge is clear: The entire Mekong region must implement a broad strategy that makes sure future growth does not come at the expense of clean air, clean water, and a healthy ecosystem. Pulling off this essential task will show the world of what is possible.

The fate of this region will also have an impact on people living far beyond it. For instance, U.S. trade with the Mekong region increased by 40 percent from 2008 to 2014. This trend has meant more jobs for Americans and continued economic growth for countries across Southeast Asia.

Meeting this challenge requires that we work with these countries to address very real development needs even as we work to sustain the environment. This requires good data for proper analysis and planning, smart investments, strong leaders, and effective institutions to manage the Mekong’s riches for the benefit of everyone in the region.

To that end, we joined with Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand, and Vietnam, to launch the Lower Mekong Initiative. Its goal is to create a shared vision of growth and opportunity that recognizes the river’s role as an economic engine and respects its place in the environment.

That is why this week (Feb. 2 and 3) the United States and the government of Laos are co-hosting a major meeting of senior officials from the five lower Mekong countries, the United States, and the European Union in Pakse, Laos, where the Mekong and Xe Don rivers meet. They will be joined by representatives of the private sector and donors like the Asian Development Bank to work on a blueprint for a sustainable future.

At the meeting, we will launch the Sustainable Mekong Energy Initiative, a plan to encourage the countries of the region to develop programs that will redirect their investments to innovations in renewable energy and other sources that do not harm the environment.

This is not a question of dictating the path of development in these countries. Rather, it is about the United States and other countries working alongside our partner nations to establish a consistent set of investment and development guidelines that ensure long-term environmental health and economic vitality all along the river’s path.

This partnership is an essential part of the broader effort by President Barack Obama and the entire administration to support the people of the Asia-Pacific region, and a further sign of our commitment to helping these vibrant economies and emerging democracies.

For Americans and Southeast Asians of my generation, the Mekong River was once a symbol of conflict. But today it can be a symbol of sustainable growth and good stewardship.

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EIB and Bhutan sign a Framework Agreement for capital investments

EIB and Bhutan sign a Framework Agreement for capital investments

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EIB and Bhutan sign a Framework Agreement for capital investments

Román Escolano, EIB Vice-Président and Bhutan ‘s Finance Minister, Lyonpo Namgay Dorji

08/12/2014

Rights Free

On Thursday 4 December, the European Investment Bank (EIB), the European Union’s long-term financing institution and Kingdom of Bhutan signed a Framework Agreement under which the Bank can start financing capital investments in the country.

The agreement was signed by the EIB Vice-President with special responsibility for the Bank’s activities in Asia, Román Escolano and his Excellency Lyonpo Namgay Dorji, Finance Minister of the Royal Government of Bhutan in Thimphu, capital of Bhutan.

The EIB is the long-term lending institution of the European Union and its shareholders are the EU Member States. Its remit is to make long-term finance available for viable projects in order to contribute towards EU policy objectives. Outside the EU, the Bank support projects that contribute to economic development in countries that have signed association or cooperation agreements with the EU or its Member States.

In Asia, the European Investment Bank has so far signed Framework Agreements with Bangladesh, Cambodia, China, India, Indonesia, Laos, Maldives, Mongolia, Nepal, Pakistan, the Philippines, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Vietnam and Yemen.

The signing of the Framework Agreement represents the first step of the EIB to support development projects in Bhutan. EIB is cooperating closely with the European Commission and the EEAS, in support of the EU’s policy objectives in the country. In pursuing sustainable investments in Bhutan, the Kingdom of Bhutan and EIB already discussed potential projects in the country, namely in the areas of energy and water infrastructure.

The EIB has been active in Asia since 1993 under mandates granted by the EU Council and the European Parliament. During this period the EU bank has signed contracts in the region for a total of EUR 5.6 billion. On 1 July 2014 the EU’s new External Lending Mandate, covering the period 2014-2020, entered into force. Part of the current mandate is dedicated to Asia, enabling the EIB to finance operations that contribute to climate change mitigation and adaptation or the development of sustainable economic infrastructure. Additionally, the EIB can also draw on its own resources under the Climate Action and Environment Facility or the Strategic Projects Facility to finance relevant projects on a selective basis.

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And the Most Corrupt Countries Areā€¦

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North Korea and Somalia, says the latest corruption perceptions index from Transparency International. “More than two thirds of the 175 countries in the 2014 Corruption Perceptions Index score below 50, on a scale from 0 (perceived to be highly corrupt) to 100 (perceived to be very clean). Denmark comes out on top in 2014 with a score of 92 while North Korea and Somalia share last place, scoring just eight. The scores of several countries rose or fell by four points or more. The biggest falls were in Turkey (-5), Angola, China, Malawi and Rwanda (all -4). The biggest improvers were Côte d´Ivoire, Egypt, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines (+5), Afghanistan, Jordan, Mali and Swaziland (+4). (TI http://bit.ly/1pUDLeX)

Desperate times….The World Food Program is resorting to crowd funding to feed 1.7 million Syrian refugees because our humanitarian system is broken (UN Dispatch http://bit.ly/12ngoPX)

Ebola

A health official says another Sierra Leonean doctor has tested positive for Ebola, the 11th from that country to become infected. (AP http://yhoo.it/1yPNhSc)

British actor Idris Elba and a host of international football stars launched a public awareness campaign on Wednesday to help halt West Africa’s Ebola epidemic and recognise the health workers fighting the deadly disease. (Reuters http://bit.ly/1vNOKGp)

To understand how Ebola came to Taylortown, how it spread in the village and how it eventually ended in the village is to understand how the epidemic might end in Liberia, and what will be left behind. (NPR http://n.pr/1pUEtZE)

Africa

Four Somalis were killed when a car bomb hit a United Nations convoy near the capital’s international airport on Wednesday, showing the threat still posed by insurgents despite their recent loss of territory. (Reuters http://bit.ly/1yPAvmB)

Kenyan trade unions have urged non-Muslim public sector workers including teachers and doctors to leave the country’s lawless northern region, site of two deadly attacks by militants in the past two weeks, because of the security risks. (Reuters http://bit.ly/1yPuW7U)

Lawmakers in Cameroon, which is battling to stop the advance of Nigerian Boko Haram militants on its territory, will vote in the coming days on whether to impose the death penalty on those found guilty of involvement in acts of terrorism. (Reuters http://bit.ly/1vNMCi4)

Judges at the International Criminal Court on Wednesday rejected prosecutors’ attempts to have the trial against Kenya’s president adjourned until they had enough evidence and set a week deadline to proceed or withdraw the charges. (Reuters http://bit.ly/1vNMUFH)

The UN-sanctioned military mission to Somalia, known as AMISOM, is taking on a new role after freeing much of the country from al-Shabab control. (VOA http://bit.ly/1vNRaos)

A multilingual mobile phone-based resource operated by Ethiopia’s Ministry of Agriculture, the Ethiopian Institute of Agricultural Research, and Ethio Telecom, and created by the Ethiopian Agricultural Transformation Agency (ATA), has proved a huge hit. (IRIN http://bit.ly/1yPIkZw)

Presidential polls in Namibia have incumbent prime minister Hage Geigob of the ruling SWAPO party leading with 84 percent of the roughly 10 percent of votes officially released so far but the new electronic polling gizmos are leaving some Namibians skeptical. (IPS http://bit.ly/1vNRXGc)

MENA

An Egyptian judge sentenced 185 Muslim Brotherhood supporters to death on Tuesday over an attack on a police station near Cairo last year in which 12 policemen were killed. (Reuters http://bit.ly/1yPBgvW)

Syrian refugees across the Middle East, some in exile for a fourth winter, face freezing temperatures, hunger and increasing hostility from locals as governments struggle to cope with the humanitarian crisis. (VOA http://bit.ly/1yPGrMu)

The United Nations has begun investigating Israeli attacks that hit UN facilities during last summer’s Gaza war and how Palestinian militants came to store weapons at several UN schools, officials said on Wednesday. (VOA http://bit.ly/1vNRfc3)

HRW urged Turkey on Wednesday to remove from its border with Syria landmines which have killed three people and wounded nine among more than 2,000 Syrian refugees camped in a minefield. (TRF http://yhoo.it/1pUAcFE)

Belgian legislators from the ruling coalition are working on a non-binding resolution to recognize a Palestinian state, adding to the groundswell of support within the European Union. (AP http://yhoo.it/1yNnvx3)

Asia

Research on a male birth control pill from Indonesia shows that it is 99% effective. (GlobalPost http://bit.ly/1yPBLGz)

Hundreds of people marched through the central Indian city of Bhopal Tuesday, waving flaming torches to commemorate the thousands who perished in the world’s deadliest industrial disaster 30 years ago. (VOA http://bit.ly/1vNPYSd)

India is forcing women and girls with disabilities into mental institutions where they are “treated worse than animals,” said Human Rights Watch in a new report. (VOA http://bit.ly/1yPFbZP)

The two top generals of the junta running Thailand on Wednesday defended the May 22 coup that ousted the civilian government but told international audiences in Bangkok they are committed to a return to democracy. (VOA http://bit.ly/1yPH6h8)

It looks like Tajikistan is following a regional trend by drafting legislation that may sharply restrict the activities of foreign-funded non-governmental organisations. Activists say the bill threatens to hinder the operations of hundreds of organisations working on everything from human rights to public health. (IPS http://bit.ly/1vNStnC)

Afghanistan will send a delegation to Iran to ask the government to extend temporary visas to allow 760,000 Afghan refugees who have no documents and risk deportation to stay on for at least a year, an Afghan government spokesman said on Wednesday. (Reuters http://yhoo.it/1pUzB6H)

Afghanistan’s foreign donors should press the Afghan government to prevent a further deterioration in the country’s human rights situation and support services crucial to rights, Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch said. (AI and HRW http://bit.ly/1yNA7nQ)

The Americas

Venezuelan opposition leader faced questions from prosecutors Wednesday over her alleged involvement in what the government says was a plot to kill President Nicolas Maduro. (AP http://yhoo.it/1yNpzFd)

Mayor of the Honduran municipality of Victoria, Sandro Martínez, assumed the commitment of turning it into a model of food and nutritional security and environmental protection by means of municipal public policies based on broad social and community participation and international development aid. (IPS http://bit.ly/1vNS9VT)

Destruction of the Peruvian Amazon is rising after expanding over more than 145,000 hectares (560 square miles) last year – an 80 percent jump from the start of the century, the government said. (Reuters http://yhoo.it/1vNT2xx)

Afghanistan has the world’s highest number of children killed or wounded by landmines and other explosive remnants of war, followed by Colombia, according to a leading anti-landmine group. (Reuters http://yhoo.it/1pUzM21)

In the past 15 years, studies in Africa have found that circumcision lowers men’s risk of being infected with HIV during heterosexual intercourse by 50 to 60 percent. Being circumcised also reduces men’s risk of infection with the herpes virus and human papillomavirus. Those health benefits prompted the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s proposed recommendation that doctors counsel parents of baby boys and teenagers, as well as men, on the benefits and risks of circumcision. (NPR http://n.pr/1yNt7XY)

Opinion/Blogs

Did the movement to reform development start above a Chipotle? (Humanosphere http://bit.ly/1vOyvZW)

The World Food Program is Crowdfunding to feed Syrian Refugees Because our Humanitarian System is Broken (UN Dispatch http://bit.ly/12ngoPX)

One Village’s Story: How Ebola Began And How It Ends (Goats and Soda http://n.pr/1vOywgl)

#ISurvivedEbola Campaign Releases First Video (Global Voices http://bit.ly/1yPCUxH)

Why are people with disabilities being denied their right to food? (The Guardian http://bit.ly/1vNRnrT)

‘Why we need to end drug war’ (CNN http://cnn.it/1vNPziz)

How to make the developing world’s cities better … and it’s not just about money (Guardian http://bit.ly/1vNPHia)

Stand in Solidarity with Courageous Women’s Human Rights Defenders (IPS http://bit.ly/1vNRKm9)

Bob Geldof’s Band Aid – Thank You but Africa’s Image Is Sagging (The Independent http://bit.ly/1yNyEOp)

The ADB Says Poverty Is Rising in Asia: I Have My Doubts (CGD http://bit.ly/1pUGvJd)

Research/Reports 

Marleen Temmerman, director of the WHO Department of Reproductive Health and Research, said that a safe, effective vaccine exists to stop cervical cancer and that it’s advisable for girls age 9 to 13 to get vaccinated before they become sexually active. (VOA http://bit.ly/1yPEAHF)

This year is on track to be the hottest on record, or at least among the very warmest, the United Nations said on Wednesday in new evidence of long-term warming that adds urgency to 190-nation talks under way in Lima on slowing climate change. (Reuters http://yhoo.it/1pUzJmJ)

Thousands of men, women and children fleeing war-ravaged countries face dreadful holding conditions and a dysfunctional reception system after risking their lives in smuggling boats to reach Greece’s Aegean Sea islands, an international medical aid organization warned on Wednesday. (AP http://yhoo.it/1pUAXP4)

Developing nations called on the rich to do more to lead the fight against climate change in line with scientific findings that global greenhouse gas emissions should fall to net zero by 2100 to avert the worst impacts. (Reuters http://yhoo.it/1yNsbmy)

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“Regional integration and global developments – a view from the European Union”

European Commission

[Check Against Delivery]

José Manuel Durão Barroso

President of the European Commission

“Regional integration and global developments – a view from the European Union”

World Economic Forum

Istanbul, 29 September 2014

Dear Prime Minister, Mr Ahmet Davutoğlu,

Dear President,

Distinguished guests,

Ladies and gentlemen,

It is my pleasure to get this opportunity to address you all and to give you a view from the European Union on the issue of regional development and global developments, after the meeting of minds you’ve had over the last two days. Indeed I believe that regional development can also come from further developing such bonds between regional leaders and stakeholders.

When we discuss the challenges facing the European Union and the wider region today, it is important to bear in mind the starting point: that the European Union as such is precisely a project meant to overcome the divisions of the past and deal with those challenges. That European integration was always meant to be, and will always need to be, a tool to help its member countries face the issues they cannot successfully face alone. That bringing Europe as a region together is the only way to protect our interests and defend our values in a rapidly evolving world. And that the same logic of regional integration and increasing cooperation is at the heart of what the European Union does both internally and internationally, especially with its immediate neighbours.

That is as true today as it was when European integration took off after the Second World War.

That is where our lasting commitment to regional integration comes from.

Because then, and now, when times change, institutions need to change as well. So let me briefly recall what the current pace of change we are facing means for our governance at global and regional level. I will then try and highlight how I see the need for the world order to adapt itself to these new challenges. To conclude, I will say a few words on EU-Turkey relations.

Ladies and gentlemen,

As we speak, times are changing drastically, in some cases even dramatically. The rate of technological progress is unprecedented, global economic integration is rapidly expanding, issues like climate change and international migration are affecting all of us.

Trade flows and supply chains cross borders with increasing ease, information travels globally and decision-making centres are spread across the globe as well. So political decision-making and cooperation must rise above national borders too. The political mind-set needs to evolve as well.

One of the main questions of our times is whether or not we succeed in adapting our governance institutions to such a changing, complex and challenging global environment, and how. Governing structures need to evolve to support more dynamic societies, empower them get the most out of the opportunities that globalisation offers in terms of jobs, travel, knowledge and innovation, education and exposure to new ideas. They also need to shield them from some of the harmful effects of globalization like the growing threat of increasing international terrorist networks. Institutions are there to support us, and they need a certain flexibility to be able to do so.

This is particularly true in times of change and crisis, when hard questions are asked of governments everywhere. Around the world, we now see a triple gap of confidence widening: a gap between markets and states; between states amongst one another; and last but not least between governments and the governed. As a result, political institutions and economic systems across the world are under pressure.

This is, let’s be clear, not a “European” or “Western” issue.

True, in democracies such gaps show easily. But this is not – as some would have it until a few years ago – a problem aggravated by democratic openness. The legitimacy question is a fundamental one everywhere, and indeed democracies are better suited to deal with such issues than the ‘pressure cooker’ model of undemocratic or less-democratic systems. Our openness, the accountability of our political structures and the diversity inherent in our model of society, is what allows us to be more flexible and to adapt better to changing environments.

But for that to happen, we need leadership and we need cooperation.

That is why events such as this one organised by the World Economic Forum can really make a difference.

Ladies and gentlemen,

Let’s be honest: today, our governance systems are in many cases sub-optimal.

Few would deny that we struggled to deal with the global financial crisis. In many ways we had to improvise and the creation of the G20 – I will come back to it in a moment – was a clear illustration that our governance models needed to adapt to a totally new situation. Indeed, a lot of what we have done since the financial crisis, most obviously in the European Union but beyond as well, was trying to remedy the defects of our financial and economic governance systems.

Even fewer would deny that the ongoing war in Syria or the emergence of a totally new form of terrorism in the region, to take only these examples in the current international turmoil in the Middle East, are showing the inadequacy of some governance systems. And the actions taken by the United Nations, as well as the support given by countries around the world including in Europe, are a necessary effort to deal with the situation collectively.

As a result of systemic defects or delay, we must also admit that there is some popular scepticism about both regional and global governance systems. This could, in the longer term, undermine them. Sometimes, they are seen as over-powering and interfering – as you can note from emotional protests against the World Trade Organisation, for instance. At other times, they are damned as ineffective – as if often claimed of the United Nations. And indeed, they may even be criticised for being both – which is sometimes the case of criticism of the European Union, that some criticise because it is too intrusive in Member States’ competences; others because it does not rely on sufficient coherence of Member States’ action. Such criticism may or may not be true, but it undoubtedly underlines an increasing need for greater legitimacy in our institutions, as well as enhanced effectiveness.

The regional dimension is part of that effort.

There is frequently a gap also between regional and global decision-making. Global bodies such as the UN and the WTO explicitly recognise the desirability of regional input and support – but the truth is that we have no established model or mechanism for how this should take place. In some cases the gap between global and regional decision-making is widening. A clear example is the relative stasis of the WTO agenda compared to the proliferation of regional or bilateral trade deals.

Besides, interdependence and interconnectedness are evolving fast, but the dynamic propelling us towards a “global village” and shared decision-making is confronted by that of a world which seems to be drifting apart. The renewed claim for identity at subnational or local level can sometimes be seen as a threat to the Nation State model, potentially leading to greater fragmentation. Globalisation has shortened the distances but has not erased differences in political and social models and has sometimes even exacerbated them. Today, we live not just in economic, scientific and technological competition with each other, but also in a broader geo-political competition of models of governance. Differences seem harder to bridge – at a time when the need to bridge them is much greater.

On top of that, the dynamic of divergence between East and West, North and South, seems set to continue. It is no exaggeration to say that power and influence are shifting, but I do not necessarily consider this as a “loss of power” of the West – I see it as part and parcel of truly global integration, which, if implemented according to some values and principles, can be a true win-win situation for the different players in our world.

In concrete terms we have seen challenges to the post-war bodies, on which global governance was based, such as the UN, the IMF and World Bank. A certain amount of complexity may be part of the new reality, but new competing institutions could further complicate regional and global governance. So the real question in my view is: do we want to focus on cooperation and collaboration or on competition?

Ladies and gentlemen,

Against this backdrop, how do we see the world order shifting and adapting itself?

A first, major development which I already mentioned is the emergence of the G20 in response to problems of global economic governance.

The economic liberalisation, and therefore also: the economic interdependence that has been so spectacular and successful over the last two decades came under threat as soon as the financial crisis erupted. The need for openness and for a global response was more obvious than ever before, namely by collectively resisting pressures of naked and ugly protectionism. But that in itself was not enough to bring it about, because the temptation to go it alone and try to survive the crisis by ‘beggar-thy-neighbour’ policies was very strong. We simply had to step up our common engagement.

I vividly remember when French President Sarkozy, then holding the rotating Presidency of the European Council, and myself went to Camp David in October 2008 in order to try to convince President George W. Bush to join our call to act against the crisis in a concerted and convincing way. This led to the G20 in its current format, at Heads of State or government level, and the hugely important effort to globalise the response to the crisis at that stage. Since then, the G20 has become the only truly global forum for coordination of economic policies between its members, giving concrete shape and form to a lot of the concepts that the European Union has brought to the table, for instance on a framework for balanced and sustainable growth, on financial regulation and supervision or on action against tax evasion and fraud.

The development of the G20, from which Turkey is a member and will hold its next presidency, is a constructive and an institutional response to the problems we face together. As such, it is one of the most significant transformations of the global system – in the short term probably the most important one – and its creation certainly helped to avoid much more negative scenarios that might well have happened without it.

A second, major test for global governance is climate change, on which we had an important UN Summit in New York last week where I had the honour to speak on behalf of the European Union.

Climate change is one of the defining challenges of our times. It ignores borders, disrupts societies, undermines development and destroys our global commons. It is by its very nature a problem we can only face together. At the same time, climate change also presents an opportunity to reinvent our economies in a cleaner, leaner, greener and more efficient way. But we, the international community, can only grasp this opportunity and defend our shared planet if we show courage, vision, determination – and unity.

The European Union has been and remains at the forefront of efforts to address climate change. In 2005, we created the world’s first and largest carbon market with the European Emissions Trading System (ETS). In 2008, we set the most ambitious targets for domestic emissions’ reductions, renewable energy and energy savings under our 2020 framework. This ambition is paying off. The European Union is on track to meet our targets.

And we try to lead by example in the future as well. The European Commission has proposed an ambitious reduction target of 40% of domestic emissions by 2030, compared to 1990 levels, plus a renewables target of at least 27% and energy savings of 30%.

So, the European Union will be ready to agree a comprehensive, global and binding climate treaty at the end of next year in the Paris Summit. And we urge those countries with the greatest responsibilities and capabilities to get ready as well. Climate change is probably the most obvious example of the need for stronger global governance.

At the same time, we must also assist the most vulnerable countries, many of which are less able to take action on climate change, but who nevertheless suffer the consequences. For that reason, over the next 7 years, the European Union aims to allocate more than €3 billion in grants to support sustainable energy in developing countries. This will leverage between €15 and €30 billion in loans and equity investment, to plug gaps in energy infrastructure and businesses, to power schools, homes and hospitals in a sustainable manner. In total, Europe will provide €14 billion of public climate finance to partners beyond its borders over the next seven years.

We need to keep up the momentum on climate action, and foster a true coalition of all stakeholders, not just governments and international organisations but business leaders, financial institutions, and civil society. This concerns us all.

A third, major evolution in global governance is the increasingly dense web of trade agreements that spans the globe – not least around the European Union’s free trade agreements.

This too is a case of rules and institutions following economic reality, while shaping it at the same time. Open trade needs to go hand in hand with a rules-based system and a level playing field for all nations, citizens and companies, otherwise its effectiveness and legitimacy will suffer gravely.

Over the last five years, Europe was able to conclude a new generation of deals with South Korea, Singapore, Colombia, Peru, Central America, and Canada; we finalised economic partnership agreements in Africa, with West Africa and the Southern African Development Community (SADC); we resumed negotiations with the Southern Cone Common Market (Mercosur); we launched important negotiations on free trade agreements (FTAs) with Japan, India, Vietnam and Thailand, and on an investment agreement with China. And we took the unprecedented step to start negotiations with the United States of America on a Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP). All this shows clearly: the European Union as the world’s largest trading block remains open for business. The crisis has not prompted us to pull up the drawbridges – on the contrary.

Now, we have always made it clear that this system of deeper bilateral ties, for us, is a second-best option. Indeed, we have only resumed bilateral and regional negotiations once it was regrettably but unmistakably clear that a multilateral trade deal encompassing the whole of the WTO membership was not forthcoming because some of the most important players were not ready for a global agreement. And in the EU we have made sure that our bilateral agreements, all of which go much beyond what would be possible multilaterally, are building blocks and not stumbling blocks for the multilateral trading system. It is a good example of pragmatic policies of bilateral and regional integration adding up to a race to the top, instead of a race to the bottom.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Since we are here in this historical and great city of Istanbul, let me conclude with some words about Turkey – a country that I respect and admire so much – and also about Turkey-EU relations.

EU-Turkey relations are almost as old as the EU itself! We are close partners – and it is absolutely critical that we sustain and deepen this partnership. I think both Europeans and Turks understand this shared interest very well.

The EU is Turkey’s central trade and investment partner. In 2013, 41.5% of Turkish goods exports went to the EU and 36.7% of all imports of goods came from the EU. The great majority of all foreign direct investment in Turkey comes from the EU. With the customs union, Turkey has access to the biggest internal market in the world. Also, I believe that adopting the EU acquis – as required by the agreement – encourages and facilitates investment in Turkey.

Turkey has gone through tremendous changes over the past ten years. The most spectacular change obviously concerns the economy: thanks to a series of difficult but smart reforms after the big crisis of 2001. Turkey has become a much wealthier country, with a 5% annual growth on average, entered the G-20 club and qualified as a functioning market economy, one of the economic criteria for EU accession.

Turkey has also made progress in its alignment with the EU legislation even if we consider that the picture is mixed as regards the political criteria.

Let me stress that the EU stands by Turkey’s reforms. I have to say that Turkey is the biggest recipient of pre-accession assistance from the EU – it benefited from €4.8 billion in the period 2007-2013. For the next programming period 2014-2020 Turkey will benefit from around €4.5 billion. Strategic priorities include support to political reform and democratisation, including rule of law and human rights, social development and social inclusion, development towards a resource-efficient low carbon economy, increased inter-connectivity, and progress towards alignment with the EU.

We welcome the fact that the new Government has tabled its EU Strategy, which is intended to reinvigorate Turkey’s work on its European path. We would like to see this clear European commitment on the Turkish side. On the European side, I would like very much to see new chapters open as soon as possible, in particular chapters 23 and 24.

So, Turkey is and remains a key partner for the EU. This has been repeated many times by the Council of the EU and by the Commission, and I’m sure this will again be one of the central messages of the upcoming Progress Report.

Take any major challenge we are faced with – from the economic crisis and energy security to migration policy or terrorism – Turkey appears as a strategic partner for the European Union and as part of the solution. Not to mention of course Turkey’s crucial role in its neighbourhood – which is also the EU’s neighbourhood. The way Turkey has so far offered shelter to a million of Syrian refugees and recently to Kurdish refugees is very impressive. But to be able to tackle all these challenges, Turkey strongly needs the EU, too! We are bound to succeed together. There is also a large, untapped potential for cooperation between us. This ranges from foreign policy to counter-terrorism, the economy, trade, energy, migration policy and the visa dialogue.

I know there are some, both in the EU and in Turkey, who have doubts about EU enlargement. But let me tell you I am convinced EU enlargement will continue because a bigger Europe is a stronger Europe.

In 2012, EU GDP was 23% of world GDP, amounting to €13 trillion while our share on the global population is just 7%. Accession benefited both those countries joining the EU and the established member states.

Enlargement extended the internal market, opened trade and financial flows and created new opportunities for businesses and companies to firms in the EU and in the incoming countries. Trade between old and new member states grew almost threefold in less than 10 years preceding the 2004 and 2007 enlargements and fivefold among the new members themselves. Central and Eastern Europe grew on average by 4% annually in the period 1994-2008. It is estimated that the accession process itself contributed almost half to this growth over the period 2000-2008.

The economic dynamism of these countries generated three million new jobs in just six years from 2002 to 2008. Growth in the acceding countries contributed to growth in the old member states through increased investment opportunities and demand for their products. It contributed 0.5 percentage point to cumulative growth of EU-15 in 2000-2008. German exports to the 12 countries that joined in 2004 have almost doubled since then, totalling €124.5 billion last year.

These figures speak for themselves. EU enlargement was and is a good thing for Europe.

Ladies and gentlemen,

Government structures are stubborn things.

But facts, as we know, are even more stubborn.

So we need to be ready to change the way we work when faced with new realities, in order to better serve and protect our citizens.

In a world where threats and opportunities are ever more global, I am confident we will find solutions that transcend the traditional boundaries of politics as well.

Pragmatism and conviction will overcome all pessimism. After ten years at the helm of the European Commission, I can say that this is not wishful thinking. This is simply the lesson I draw from all what was achieved to overcome the worst part of the financial and economic crisis, as well as to face new global challenges.

Thank you very much.

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Press Releases: U.S. Engagement in the 2014 ASEAN Regional Forum

On August 10 in Nay Pyi Taw, Myanmar, Secretary of State John Kerry led the United States’ delegation to the 21st Meeting of the ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF), an annual gathering of foreign ministers and senior officials representing 26 countries from Pakistan to the Pacific Rim, and the European Union. The ARF is the region’s main foreign minister-level forum for promoting security, and this year it addressed pressing political and security issues including: maritime cooperation in the South China Sea and diplomatic solutions to decrease tension among claimant states; concerns over the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea’s nuclear program and human rights situation; the conflicts in Ukraine and Gaza; and regional cooperation on issues ranging from cyber-security to nonproliferation to humanitarian assistance and disaster relief (HA/DR). The ministers adopted statements on cooperation for offshore oil spill incidents and maritime and aeronautical search and rescue.

The ARF ministers also endorsed ARF activities held during the past year and approved over 20 proposed activities for the coming year. These activities cover several key security areas, including: preventive diplomacy; maritime security; disaster response; counterterrorism and transnational crime; and nonproliferation and disarmament. The United States is actively engaged in all areas and is committed to working through the ARF to shape a rules-based order that is stable, peaceful, open and free.

Preventive Diplomacy

A top priority for U.S. engagement in the ARF is advancing the forum from a body focused on confidence building to one capable of preventive diplomacy. Preventive diplomacy refers to timely, non-coercive and peaceful methods consistent with international law to deal with disputes and conflict.

  • In March, the United States, Brunei, China, and New Zealand hosted a Roundtable on Training Resources for Preventive Diplomacy in Wellington, New Zealand that established a foundation for future preventive diplomacy training in the ARF.
     
  • Building on momentum from the Wellington roundtable, the United States with support from the United States Institute of Peace will partner with China, New Zealand, and Thailand to hold a preventive diplomacy training course later this year.
     
  • Leveraging regional think tank and academic expertise is important to the development of an effective, comprehensive approach to regional preventive diplomacy. To this end, the United States will co-chair with New Zealand and Thailand a Preventive Diplomacy Symposium to facilitate the exchange of ideas between governmental and non-governmental experts on how best to implement preventive diplomacy training in the ARF.
     
  • The United States submitted input to the ARF Annual Security Outlook, which provides a comprehensive outline of U.S. regional security policies and capabilities in the region, to encourage full transparency in military resources and strategy among ARF members.

Maritime Security

With over 40 percent of the world’s seaborne trade flowing through the Asia Pacific, maintaining open sea lines of communication and ensuring freedom of navigation and other lawful uses of the seas are critical for regional security and stability. As a Pacific nation, the United States continues to prioritize maritime security cooperation through the promotion of freedom of navigation, international law, the peaceful settlement of disputes, and unimpeded lawful commerce.

  • In May, the United States, Indonesia and the Republic of Korea hosted the Inter-Sessional Meeting (ISM) on Maritime Security in Bali, Indonesia, concluding a three-year co-chairmanship. The agenda focused on building confidence and sharing best practices on safety of navigation, maritime search and rescue, and combatting illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing. Participants also exchanged views on pressing maritime security issues in the region, including concerns over recent developments in the South China Sea, where tensions have risen over disputed territorial and maritime claims. The United States will continue to encourage greater multilateral cooperation through increased transparency and confidence building as it continues its co-chairmanship of the Maritime Security ISM for another three years, partnering with Japan and the Philippines.
     
  • The United States, through a partnership with Brunei, China, Japan, and Singapore, promoted positive maritime cooperation through two marine environmental protection workshops that focused on offshore oil spills, leading to the ARF Ministers’ Statement on Cooperation.
     
  • The United States will also co-chair a seminar next year on counter-piracy with Japan, Malaysia, and India, that will address challenges faced by coastal countries in addressing piracy and armed robbery in Asia.

Disaster Relief

Seventy percent of all natural disasters occur in the Asia Pacific, costing the region $68 billion annually over the past ten years. Through continued, dedicated efforts, ARF participants have made considerable progress in the area of disaster relief, taking lessons learned, including from the recent super typhoon Haiyan, and working to improve the capabilities of ASEAN’s Coordination Centre for Humanitarian Assistance on Disaster Management (AHA Centre).

  • The United States has participated in three ARF Disaster Relief Exercises (DiREx), including as co-chair in 2009. In order to strengthen regional cooperation and improve regional disaster response, the United States will continue robust participation and support for DiREx in 2015, led by USAID’s Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance, and supported by U.S. Pacific Command and other U.S. agencies.
     
  • Climate change is a complex strategic driver with significant economic, societal, and political implications. Initiatives to adapt to a changing climate are already underway in the Asia Pacific, including in the ARF, where the United States and Brunei will co-chair a climate change adaptation workshop to build regional awareness and capacity to address this challenge. The United States is also working with Singapore and Vietnam to promote the use of renewable fuels within the U.S.-Asia-Pacific Comprehensive Energy Partnership.
     
  • The United States is working with Australia and Malaysia to develop a multi-year strategic exercise plan for the region’s various HA/DR bodies and mechanisms—namely the ASEAN Committee on Diaster Management, ARF, the ASEAN Defense Minister’s Meeting Plus and the East Asia Summit— to prepare us to better coordinate delivery of life-saving relief in future disasters.

Counter-terrorism and Transnational Crime

The ARF addresses four core areas in its work on counterterrorism and transnational crime: illicit drugs; cyber security; counter-radicalization; and chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear (CBRN) issues. The ARF is making efforts to improve collaboration among regional governments to address these issues:

  • The United States is working with Singapore to conduct the next in a series of cyber workshops focused on developing confidence building measures for the region. As national security interests are increasingly tied to cyberspace, the development of confidence building measures that facilitate increased transparency, greater cooperation, and improved capacity within the region is essential to reducing the risk of future conflict.
     
  • The ARF Cross-Sectoral Security Cooperation on Bio-Preparedness and Disaster Response project, led by the United States and the Philippines, is a series of workshops and activities designed to implement the best practices approved by the 20th ARF. ARF participants can draw from their best practices to develop their respective national guidelines and enhance regional capacity for preparedness and collective response to a biological event .
     
  • This year the United States, Indonesia, and Myanmar will host a workshop on migration and human security to strengthen regional knowledge and capacity to address the human security challenges of migration and to promote the benefits of legal, safe, and orderly migration.
     
  • The United States and Malaysia will co-chair a workshop on mitigating demand for illegal wildlife trafficking in the Asia Pacific. Wildlife traffickers have become increasingly well-armed and organized, and what was once small scale or opportunistic killing has escalated into the coordinated slaughter of endangered and protected wildlife commissioned by terrorist organizations and organized crime syndicates. This joint U.S.-Malaysian effort will complement wildlife trafficking-related activities planned in APEC and other fora, as well as the work of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) and the International Consortium on Combating Wildlife Crime (ICCWC).

Nonproliferation and Disarmament

The ARF is the premier regional venue for multilateral cooperation on nonproliferation and disarmament issues through tangible capacity building programs and open discussions to coordinate efforts and build common understanding.

  • The United States partnered with other members to institutionalize the discussion on nonproliferation and disarmament issues in the ARF and to develop a work plan that promotes balance for the three central pillars of the global nonproliferation regime: preventing the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, promoting the peaceful use of nuclear technology, and advancing global disarmament efforts.
     
  • This year, the United States, the European Union, and Singapore will host a technical workshop on nuclear forensics.

Space Security

Capitalizing on the first ARF space security workshop, the United States, Indonesia, and Japan will lead a workshop to explore the benefits of space assets for ASEAN states, address current issues facing the space environment, and assess approaches to space security to ensure the benefits for future generations.

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Daily News of 2014-07-30

MEX 14 / 30.07

DAILY NEWS

30 / 07 / 14

Agreement on additional restrictive measures against Russia 

Following the agreement by the European Union on a package of significant additional restrictive measures targeting sectoral cooperation and exchanges with the Russian Federation, President of the European Commission José Manuel Barroso and President of the European Council Herman Van Rompuy issued a joint statement, saying that the measures were “meant as a strong warning: illegal annexation of territory and deliberate destabilisation of a neighbouring sovereign country cannot be accepted in 21st century Europe.” The decisions will limit access to EU capital markets for Russian State-owned financial institutions, impose an embargo on trade in arms, establish an export ban for dual use goods for military end users, and curtail Russian access to sensitive technologies particularly in the field of the oil sector.

European Commission adopts ‘Partnership Agreement’ with Portugal

The European Commission has adopted a “Partnership Agreement” with Portugal setting down the strategy for the optimal use of European Structural and Investment Funds throughout the country. Today’s agreement paves the way for investing €21.46 billion in total Cohesion Policy funding over 2014-2020 (current prices, including European Territorial Cooperation funding and the allocation for the Youth Employment Initiative). Portugal also receives €4.06 billion for rural development and €392 million for fisheries and the maritime sector. The EU investments will help tackle unemployment and boost competitiveness and economic growth through support to innovation, training and education in Portugal’s cities, towns and rural areas. They will also promote entrepreneurship, fight social exclusion and help to develop an environmentally friendly and a resource-efficient economy. Later today, President of the European Commission José Manuel Barroso and Regional Policy Commissioner Johannes Hahn will participate in a meeting with the Portuguese prime minister and other members of the government in Lisbon to mark the launch of the Partnership Agreement. Commenting on the adoption, President Barroso said: ”The adoption of the ‘Partnership Agreement’ is vital to continue the support to Portugal’s recovery and development. It is very much geared towards improving competitiveness, creating jobs and promoting social inclusion. It is now paramount to use the nearly €26 billion in an efficient and productive manner, directly benefiting Portuguese people.” Portugal is the 10th EU Member State to have adopted its Partnership Agreement.

Other news

EU scales up funding in response to West Africa Ebola outbreak

The European Commission is allocating an additional €2 million to respond to the worst Ebola outbreak ever recorded. This EU funding will help contain the spread of the epidemic and provide immediate healthcare to the affected communities. It brings the Commission’s aid to fight the Ebola epidemic to €3.9 million. The Commission is in close contact with Member States. In addition, the EU has deployed health and humanitarian experts to the affected countries.

An off-the-record technical briefing on the EU response to the Ebola outbreak will be held after the Midday briefing today in the Commission’s press room.

Transport: €320 million for 106 infrastructure projects

The European Commission has selected 106 key projects that will benefit from over €320 million in EU support to improve TEN-T (trans-European transport network) infrastructure. These projects will use the EU’s financial support to speed up the completion of the TEN-T network, as well as studying innovative ways of reducing the transport sector’s environmental footprint.

Migrant integration in the labour market in 2013: Unemployment rate for non-EU citizens notably higher than for nationals in the EU28

In 2013 in the EU28, the unemployment rate for non-EU citizens (21.3%) aged 20 to 64 was more than twice the level for citizens of the reporting country (10.0%), referred to as “nationals”. However, the share of people unemployed for 12 months or more was at almost the same level for non-EU citizens (48.6%) and for nationals (49.4%). As regards employment, the rate for non-EU citizens aged 20 to 64 in the EU28 stood at 56.1%, while it was 68.9% for nationals. The share of employees aged 20 to 64 with a temporary contract was higher for non-EU citizens (20.2%) than for nationals (12.4%). The pattern was the same for the proportion of part time employment, which was more widespread amongst non-EU citizens (27.5%) than amongst nationals (18.4%).

Another step in the finalization of the Banking Union’s architecture: publication of Single Resolution Mechanism (SRM) Regulation

Today, the Regulation establishing a Single Resolution Mechanism (SRM) for the Banking Union has been published in the Official Journal of the EU, only one year after the European Commission presented its proposal. The Single Resolution Mechanism will implement in the Eurozone the new rules set for all 28 Member States by the Bank Recovery and Resolution Directive (BRRD) in order to put an end to the old paradigm of bank bail-outs, which cost taxpayers’ hundreds of billions of euros in the crisis. The Single Resolution Mechanism will allow for the timely and effective resolution of cross border and domestic banks, over a weekend if necessary. The Regulation will enter into force on 19 August. The provisions relating to the cooperation between the Single Resolution Board and the national resolution authorities for the preparation of the banks’ resolution plans will apply from 1 January 2015 and the Single Resolution Mechanism should be fully operational from 1st January 2016. Today’s publication contributes to making the Banking Union a reality. See also MEMO/14/295 and MEMO/14/475 for SRM and MEMO/14/294 for Banking Union.

Mergers: Commission clears acquisition of Vencorex by PTT Public Company Limited

The European Commission has approved under the EU Merger Regulation the acquisition of Vencorex of France by PTT Public Company Limited of Thailand, via its Dutch subsidiary PTTGC International. Vencorex produces and sells globally various chemicals, including toluene diisocyanate and raffinates, used primarily in polyurethanes foams and coatings, as well as aliphatic diisocyanates and derivatives used in coatings for cars, plastics, floors etc. PTT Public Company Limited is active globally in various sectors, including energy, natural gas, distribution of refined fuels, lubricating products and various chemicals. The Commission concluded that the proposed acquisition would not raise competition concerns, in particular because the parties’ activities do not overlap and the vertical links are limited. The transaction was examined under the simplified merger review procedure. More information is available on the Commission’s competition website, in the public case register under the case number M.7303 .

Mergers: The Commission clears acquisition of Ipreo by Goldman Sachs and Blackstone

The European Commission has approved under the EU Merger Regulation the acquisition of Ipreo Holdings LLC (Ipreo) of the USA by the Goldman Sachs Group, Inc (Goldman Sachs) of the USA and the Blackstone Group L.P. (Blackstone) of the USA. Ipreo is active, globally, in the financial information industry as a provider of financial information products. Goldman Sachs is a global investment banking, securities and investment management firm. Blackstone is a global alternative asset manager and provider of financial advisory services. The Commission concluded that the proposed acquisition would not raise competition concerns given the very low combined market shares resulting from the transaction. The transaction was examined under the simplified merger review procedure. More information is available on the Commission’s competition website, in the public case register under the case number M.7261 .

State aid: Commission approves prolongation of Portuguese guarantee scheme

The European Commission has authorised, under EU State aid rules, the extension until 30 June 2014 of a guarantee scheme for credit institutions in Portugal. The scheme was initially approved in October 2008 (see IP/08/1601) and prolonged several times, last in December 2013 (see MEX/13/1912). The Commission found the extension of the measures to be in line with its guidance on state aid to banks during the crisis (see IP/08/1495 , IP/11/1488 and IP/13/672). In particular, the extended measure is well targeted, proportionate and limited in time and scope. More information will be available on the Commission’s competition website, in the public case register, under the case number SA.38900 .

State aid: Commission approves second prolongation of Portuguese guarantee scheme on EIB lending

The European Commission has authorised, under EU State aid rules, a second prolongation, until 31 December 2014, of a Portuguese scheme providing State guarantees to banks that guarantee European Investment Bank (EIB) loans granted to companies in Portugal. The scheme was initially approved on 27 June 2013 (see IP/13/617) and first prolonged in December 2013 (see MEX 13/1812). The Commission found the prolongation of the measure to be in line with its guidance on state aid to banks during the crisis (see IP/08/1495 , IP/11/1488 and IP/13/672). In particular, the prolonged measure is well targeted, proportionate and limited in time and scope. The scheme will allow the continuation of funding provided by the EIB to the real economy and prevent the disruption of the credit granted by the EIB through the banks participating in the scheme. More information will be available on the Commission’s competition website, in the public case register, under the case number SA.38778 .

Antitrust: Commission closes its investigation into the refusal by several manufacturers of prestige/luxury watches to supply spare parts to independent repairers

The European Commission has closed its antitrust investigation in the sectors of the supply of spare parts and the provision of repair and maintenance services for luxury/prestige watches in several member states (notably France, Germany, Italy, Spain and the UK). The investigation concerned watches which are typically worth repairing and maintaining (in that regard, the Commission focused on watches sold above a certain retail price). The Commission investigated, further to a complaint by the European Confederation of Watch and Clock Repairers’ Association (CEAHR), whether the discontinuance of the supplies of spare parts by prestige watch manufacturers to independent watch repairers (i.e. repairers that do not belong to their respective official networks for repair and maintenance services) may constitute an infringement of EU competition rules on restrictive agreements and abuse of a dominant position (Articles 101 and 102 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the EU, respectively). Following a comprehensive investigation, the Commission has concluded that there is limited likelihood of finding such an infringement. The Commission has accordingly decided to close its antitrust probe (see web statement for more background on the case).

First World Day against Trafficking in Persons:  “Addressing trafficking in human beings must remain a political priority” says Commissioner Malmström

At the occasion of the first World day against Trafficking in Persons, Commissioner Cecilia Malmström reminded that trafficking in human beings “happens in the EU and affects us all”. Today “is an occasion to renew our commitment to work together for eradicating human trafficking. It is a day to reflect our personal and collective responsibility towards the victims. Our behaviour creates demand that fosters all forms of exploitation, and this must stop. We owe it to the victims”, explained the Commissioner for Home Affairs. She called upon all citizens to be aware that “The food we eat, the clothes we wear, the goods we use every day could be products of slavery”, before emphasizing that” addressing trafficking in human beings must remain a political priority – in Europe and beyond our borders”.

July 2014: Economic Sentiment stable in the euro area, decreasing slightly in the EU

In July the Economic Sentiment Indicator (ESI) remained broadly stable in the euro area (+0.1 points at 102.2), while it decreased slightly in the EU (by 0.6 points to 105.8).

Business Climate Indicator decreases marginally in July

In July 2014 the Business Climate Indicator (BCI) for the euro area decreased marginally by 0.04 points to +0.17. Managers’ more optimistic views on expected production and, to a lesser extent, the current level of overall order books were offset by an important decline in their assessments of past production. Managers’ assessment of stocks of finished products and export order books remained broadly unchanged.

Digital privacy: EU-wide logo and “data protection impact assessments” aim to boost the use of RFID systems

New EU-wide technical standards have been agreed that will help users of Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) smart chips and systems comply with EU Data Protection rules and the Commission’s 2009 recommendation on RFID. A “data protection impact assessment” process has also been agreed. Among the practical effects of these new standards, people using electronic travel passes, or buying clothes and supermarket items with RFID tags in the label, will know that smart chips are present thanks to a new RFID sign. Retailers using RFID technology to improve stock management and prevent theft will be confident that they are respecting current EU data protection rules. Vice President Neelie Kroes said:Smart tags and systems are part of everyday life now, they simplify systems and boost our economy. But it is important to have standards in place which ensure those benefits do not come at a cost to data protection and security of personal data“.

EU Timber Regulation: new scorecard shows mixed progress to date

In March 2013, the EU Timber Regulation entered into application outlawing the placing of illegal timber on the internal market. A scoreboard published today by the Commission shows a mixed picture with regard to the implementation of the Regulation across the EU. To be effective, the legislation needs to be applied in full in an efficient and effective way, but there is still room for improvement in a number of Member States. The scorecard grades Members States against three main obligations under the legislation – designation of competent authorities, laying down the rules on penalties applicable to infringements, and an adequate system of checks. Illegal logging – the harvesting of timber in contravention to the laws and regulations of the country of harvest – is a global problem, causing deforestation, climate change and a loss of biodiversity, lost revenues for governments and legitimate operators, and disempowering local and indigenous communities. The Timber Regulation, which is part of the EU’s Forest Law Enforcement Governance and Trade (FLEGT) Action Plan , aims to combat the problem by developing responsible trading practices and obliging suppliers to ensure their timber complies with national legislation in the place of harvest. An overview can be consulted here: http://ec.europa.eu/environment/forests/timber_regulation.htm

The new scoreboard is part of a more robust approach that aims to ensure uniform application of the Timber Regulation across the Union.

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Speeches: ASEAN and America: Partners for the Future

As Prepared for Delivery

Thank you, Phil. I’m glad to be in San Francisco, and with all of you here at the Commonwealth Club.

You’re here today because you understand the importance of Asia to America. This is especially evident in a Pacific Coast state like California. More than 5.5 million Asian-Pacific Americans live in California, and millions more Californians do business, study, or otherwise benefit from their ties with the region. California exported nearly $70 billion in goods to the region last year, more than any other state. And Asia matters to the entire United States – to our economy, to our security, to our families.

As a Pacific power and a trading nation, we can’t afford not to be in the Asia-Pacific. That’s why President Obama decided, before he even took office, to institute a long-term, strategic emphasis on the region. And I’m confident that strategy will extend far beyond his presidency, because we have strong bipartisan support for it – both parties understand the importance of Asia.

Now, there is a lot going on in Asia today, from the dramatic rise of China and the historic reforms in Burma, to the ongoing threat from North Korea’s pursuit of nuclear weapons, to the dangerous tensions in the South China Sea.

And while I know that as a topic, “strengthening regional institutions” probably ties for last place with “corporate tax policy” in its headline-grabbing power, it’s one of the most consequential undertakings in terms of American interests. And that’s what I’d like to discuss with you today — namely, the effort to shape a rules-based order that is stable, peaceful, open and free.

First let me say that the region I am responsible for–East Asia and the Pacific–is a diverse one. Northeast Asia, Oceania–which includes Australia, New Zealand, and the Pacific island states–and then Southeast Asia, are all quite different.

Northeast Asia is home to two of our important treaty allies – Japan and the Republic of Korea. We’ve modernized defense cooperation with both countries to address the very real threat posed by North Korea. And we’ve deepened economic engagement through free trade agreements such as the one reached with South Korea.

Northeast Asia is also home, of course, to China–with which we’ve dramatically increased our engagement.

I was with Secretary Kerry, Treasury Secretary Jack Lew, and other Cabinet officials earlier this month for the annual Strategic and Economic Dialogue covering nearly every area of our relationship with China, from concrete steps to combat climate change and wildlife trafficking, to preventing nuclear proliferation on the Korean Peninsula and in Iran, to facilitating business and investment between our two countries.

These exchanges show the conviction of both sides – as the world’s two largest economies, two of the strongest military powers, and the two largest carbon emitters – to cooperate on the world’s toughest problems whenever we can. And just as important, they show our shared commitment to tackle problem areas frankly and openly, instead of merely agreeing to disagree on issues like human rights or intellectual property protection.

Australia, New Zealand, and the Pacific island states are extremely important partners. We’ve upgraded our defense cooperation with our Australian treaty ally, and we’re working to create jobs and shared prosperity with both Australia and New Zealand through the TPP trade agreement.

We’re also working with the vulnerable island states to protect the environment. Last month, Secretary Kerry hosted the “Our Ocean” conference, a first-of-its-kind diplomatic effort rallying heads of state, scientists and advocates from the Pacific Island nations and beyond to protect this shared resource.

But in many respects, the dynamic center of the region is Southeast Asia, and the ten countries that make up ASEAN.

Let me first say a few words about each.

Our ally the Philippines is a stable democracy with strong economic growth. We completed an enhanced defense cooperation agreement during President Obama’s visit in April, which enables us to better address common security challenges and provide relief for disasters, such as Typhoon Haiyan. Our economies also continue to grow closer, with two way trade reaching $24 billion last year.

We have strong partners in Indonesia and Malaysia, both pluralistic and tolerant Muslim-majority nations with growing economies. Indonesia’s recent presidential election shows the strength of their democracy. And President Obama’s recent visit to Malaysia highlighted our growing economic, people-to-people, and security ties.

Singapore is an influential and effective economic, diplomatic and security partner. Brunei is a major energy producer that, while small, has been a valuable partner for us on crucial regional issues like renewable energy and free trade.

Vietnam, of course, has a complicated history with the U.S. But our relations are now flourishing. Trade is increasing dramatically as Vietnam’s economy grows. And we’re forging closer security ties, even as we encourage greater political openness and respect for human rights.

We cooperate with Laos and Cambodia on a range of development issues, and we also push them to adhere to global standards of human rights.

With our longtime treaty ally Thailand, despite the recent setback of a military coup, we remain committed to our enduring friendship.

Perhaps no other country shows the promise of this region better than Burma, which has made a turn of historic proportions towards democracy and reform.

But that turn is by no means complete. Burma faces many challenges, and the success of its reform process is by no means certain. Burma is working to negotiate a lasting peace to end the world’s longest running civil war. It is grappling now with the key issue of constitutional reform, of military versus civilian control over its government, and of who it deems eligible to serve as head of state.

It continues to face hard choices in determining how to resolve an ongoing humanitarian crisis in Rakhine State. On that issue, we have seen some positive movement in the past week, as the government announced its intent to welcome the return of assistance providers, like Doctors Without Borders, and put forth its strategy on how to bring access to livelihoods and security back to populations that have been living tenuously for many months because of ethno-religious violence and discrimination.

Secretary Kerry will be very focused on seeing how this process is proceeding, when he visits in early August. He, and then President Obama when he visits in November, will be keen to get a sense of Burma’s preparedness for its landmark elections next year. The world will be watching, and we will continue to stand with the government and people of Burma as they enter this testing period. So we will continue to press Burma’s leaders to protect and respect all of their peoples, and their human rights and fundamental freedoms. And we will continue to support that country’s transformation.

That’s the overview of Southeast Asia today. The region’s economic dynamism and strategic importance has made it a particular focus of this administration – the ‘rebalance within the rebalance,’ if you will.

These ten countries have many differences, but they are bound by the conviction that they can achieve more together than they can apart. But before we talk about where they’re headed, it’s important to know how they came together.

Today’s ASEAN began in 1967 when the Vietnam War was heating up, and the Cold War seemed never-ending. In this uncertain world, five Southeast Asian nations signed a Declaration that they would support each other as they sought to build prosperous, independent states.

Now, nearly half a century after its founding, ASEAN has doubled to 10 nations with more than 620 million people, and a GDP of $2.2 trillion.

As Southeast Asia has grown and developed, ASEAN’s relations with the U.S. have grown as well. Under our Trade and Investment Framework Agreement signed in 2006, we have deepened our economic ties.

Since President Obama decided in 2009 to sign the Treaty of Amity and Cooperation–a treaty that ASEAN has extended to key neighbors–we’ve deepened our political ties as well. This is shown by the President’s decision to participate annually in the East Asia Summit, as he will again this year in November. This commitment to enhanced engagement with ASEAN is a key feature of the rebalance.

And we’re strengthening our ties with ASEAN across the entire U.S. government. Take this past April, when Secretary Hagel, USAID Administrator Raj Shah, and U.S. Pacific Commander Admiral Sam Locklear hosted defense ministers from the ASEAN nations in Hawai’i. This was the first-ever ASEAN meeting here in the United States–a recognition that our security and prosperity are more intertwined than ever before.

For instance, California already sells over $11.6 billion worth of goods to ASEAN. Exports to ASEAN support more than 90,000 California jobs [in 2012]. And both of those numbers can grow a lot more. Your state also stands to gain from more tourists and students from the region.

And ASEAN matters to the entire United States. We had $206 billion worth of trade in goods last year. ASEAN is our fourth-largest export market and trading partner. With a diaspora reaching across America, the region contributes to our culture. And sitting astride vital trade routes, it is important to our security.

A stable Southeast Asia that meets the aspirations of its people–for economic growth, clean air and water, education, and a voice in how they’re governed–is in America’s national interest. And one of the best, most efficient ways for America to help the region meet its aspirations is by investing in ASEAN.

Strengthening regional institutions is a long-term strategy. We pursue it because it’s essential to building the foundations for progress–from ease of trade, travel and transport, to systems for resolving legal disputes, to the ability to act together on pressing issues like environmental protection. We all benefit from a rules-based system.

Strong institutions harness a powerful force. A force you see in both daily life and in international politics–peer pressure. In fact, ASEAN shows that the best way to create positive peer pressure in the long term is through strong institutions.

ASEAN is working towards forming a cohesive economic community by next year through lower barriers and increased trade volumes with each other. For the U.S. economy, this will mean easier and more efficient market access to all 10 ASEAN countries. And in the longer term, a more prosperous ASEAN will be able to buy more American exports–from farm products to manufactured goods, to services.

Even as ASEAN pursues its ambitious agenda of internal integration, it has taken on the challenge of bringing the entire Asia-Pacific region closer together. This fills an important gap – APEC is a forum for economic cooperation, but there was no forum in the region where countries could deal with political, security, and humanitarian issues.

So in 1997, ASEAN started meetings with Japan, South Korea, and China… then with Australia, India, and New Zealand… and four years ago with the United States and Russia, bringing the number of world leaders attending what is now known as the East Asia Summit to 18.

The growth of the East Asia Summit shows ASEAN’s measured advance on the international stage as the hub that connects the region.

Less visible than the leaders’ summit, but even larger, is the ASEAN Regional Forum, an annual gathering of foreign ministers and other senior officials representing 26 countries from Pakistan to the Pacific Rim, and the EU.

This is perhaps the region’s most important ministerial meeting of the year, and it takes place in a few weeks in Burma. Secretary Kerry and his counterparts will discuss political and security issues, and begin fleshing out the agenda for the East Asia Summit, or EAS, which President Obama plans to attend in November.

Why the emphasis on EAS? In Europe, we’ve seen for decades how a region can develop effective institutions tailored to their unique needs, such as NATO and the OSCE. Those organizations have helped tackle regional, political, security and humanitarian problems. We believe the EAS can become the premier forum for addressing pressing issues in the Asia-Pacific region. But it is relatively new, and members are still trying to shape it to increase its usefulness and effectiveness.

We joined EAS because, as an Asia-Pacific nation, we want to be at the table for a strategic discussion about how we build and shape the institution over time.

Let me give you a little preview of the issues that will be at the top of Secretary Kerry’s agenda. We expect to advance collaboration on issues ranging from non-proliferation to humanitarian assistance and disaster response.

Disaster response is incredibly important, since the Asia-Pacific is hit by 70 percent of all natural disasters, costing the region $68 billion annually over the past ten years.

We have worked closely with partners, including China, on improving regional responses to problems and accidents such as oil spills, for example. We are supporting the EAS declaration on Rapid Disaster Response, helping spread the lessons learned in the Philippines from the recent Super-typhoon Haiyan, and working to improve the capabilities of ASEAN’s Centre for Humanitarian Assistance and disaster relief.

We’ve also teamed up with regional partners to develop a strategic plan for exercises that will prepare us to better coordinate delivery of life-saving relief in future disasters. And we are preparing to host an ARF climate change adaptation workshop to help countries protect their people from this growing problem.

In addition to advancing these areas of collaboration, we will have frank discussions about pressing political and security challenges. In recent months, the main security challenge facing ASEAN has been tensions in the South China Sea.

This is, of course, most important to the countries with overlapping territorial and maritime claims there. Let me note up front that the U.S. is not a claimant and does not take a position on others’ claims to land features in the South China Sea. So the United States can be impartial. And we are impartial; we are not taking one claimant’s side against another.

However, peace and stability in the South China Sea is important to the international community, because the South China Sea is essential to the global economy. Up to 50 percent of the world’s oil tanker shipments, and over half of the world’s merchant tonnage, pass through the South China Sea. National interests like freedom of navigation, international law, the peaceful settlement of disputes, and unimpeded commerce are at stake.

Rival maritime and territorial claims have existed here for decades, as countries jostle over islands, shipping lanes, historically rich fisheries, and more recently, oil and gas reserves.

The claimants have, at various times, shown that cooperation in the South China Sea area is possible. They have jointly explored for and managed resources. The Philippines and Indonesia peacefully settled a 20-year maritime boundary dispute just outside the Sea earlier this year. China and Vietnam have settled similar issues in the past. And some claimants have jointly developed energy resources further away from disputed land features.

In 2002, the ASEAN nations and China signed a Declaration on Conduct in the South China Sea. The Declaration, among other things, said that the parties would resolve disputes peacefully and in accordance with international law, and would refrain from actions that would escalate disputes, such as setting up new outposts on unoccupied features. And they agreed to work toward a more detailed Code of Conduct.

But tensions have flared over the years as well, and this year, they are running high. No claimant is solely responsible for the state of tensions. However, big and powerful countries have a special responsibility to show restraint. China’s recent pattern of assertive, unilateral behavior has raised serious concerns about China’s expansive claims, and its willingness to adhere to international law and standards.

Tensions spiked recently when China sent a deepwater drilling rig and armed ships into an area near the Paracel Islands that Vietnam also claims. The resulting weeks-long confrontation resulted in damaged ships, including the sinking of a Vietnamese fishing vessel, and damaged relations, including anti-Chinese riots in Vietnam.

At the same time, public evidence indicates the claimants are upgrading outposts on small land features in the South China Sea. What worries me is that China’s projects are far outpacing similar upgrades that other claimants are making. This important, resource-rich area should not be heavily militarized.

And actions off the water can raise tensions as well.

All parties should be able to bring disputes for adjudication under international law if they conclude that regular diplomatic efforts will not succeed. The Philippines has done this in a dispute with China over the validity of its claim that a 1948 Nationalist Chinese map “proves” that China owns the land and water within a “9 dash line” in the South China Sea.

But instead of engaging constructively and arguing its case as the Tribunal has proposed, China has pressured the Philippines to drop its case, and attempted to isolate the Philippines diplomatically.

International law, not national power, should be the basis for pursuing maritime claims in the South China Sea.

The United States works to lower tensions and help the parties peacefully manage their disputes in several ways. We have told the claimants – including the Chinese – directly and at the highest levels, of our growing concern. And we’ve encouraged all sides to avoid provocations and make clear claims based on international law.

We’re working with ASEAN and the international community to promote regional structures and arrangements, like a meaningful Code of Conduct, to lower tensions and manage disputes.

Rules and guidelines work best when they’re agreed to by the parties, through institutions that build habits of cooperation.

The U.S. is also investing more than $156 million in the civilian maritime capabilities of allies and partners in the area over the next two years. This includes equipment, training, and infrastructure. And it augments our own security presence in the region, which has been enhanced by the rebalance.

These are steps the U.S. is taking. But the claimants are the ones who must manage and settle the disputes. They are the ones who must generate the peer pressure – who must hold themselves to high standards, and then set an example for each other.

For instance, China and ASEAN already committed under the 2002 Declaration on Conduct to avoid activities that “would complicate or escalate disputes and affect peace and stability.”

However, these problematic activities are not well defined. We are urging China and the other claimants to have a conversation about what activities are acceptable to each of them – both to help reduce tensions now, and manage differences in the long run.

We have called for claimant states to define and voluntarily freeze problematic activities. The exact elements of a freeze would be decided by consensus among the claimants, and would not prejudice the competing claims.

We’ve offered these ideas, in greater detail, both in public and in private. And we plan on advancing this important discussion at the upcoming ASEAN Regional Forum meeting in Burma.

Over time, strong institutions can influence the conduct of all their members, helping to avoid conflict and incentivize peaceful resolution of disputes. We see beneficial outcomes of positive peer pressure with environmental issues, in trade, and human rights. It doesn’t work every time, but it’s responsible for enormous progress.

The Asia-Pacific region has almost limitless potential, if it can avoid the pitfalls ahead. Strong institutions are key – not just to avoid and resolve disputes, but also to lower barriers to trade, and protect human rights and fundamental freedoms.

The U.S., as a resident Pacific power and participant in many of the region’s institutions, will do all we can to strengthen those institutions even further.

We do this through our alliances and our security partnerships–and through our growing business and people-to-people ties, in which California plays an incredibly large role. And together, the American people and our government will continue to help provide a foundation of peace and stability on which the region can grow.

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