Asian and European economic ministers resolved to jointly respond to growing global protectionism.
The Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy announced that representatives of 51 member countries adopted the Joint Statement on Supporting the Multilateral Trade System with the above-mentioned contents at a meeting of the 7th ASEM Economic Ministers Meeting in COEX, Seoul on September 22.
The ASEM was established in 1996 as an economic cooperation council of 53 Asian and European countries. The organization is evaluated as an important regional cooperation body that accounts for more than 60% of global trade as of 2015.
The ASEM Economic Ministers' Meeting was suspended due to conflicts among some member countries after the 2005 Rotterdam Conference in the Netherlands. the meeting was resumed in 12 years at the proposal of Korea. At this meeting, 51 member countries excluding Malta and Slovenia, attended the meeting to discuss measures such as the promotion of trade and investment, strengthening economic ties, and sustainable and inclusive growth.
A major outcome of this meeting is that member countries joined forces to support free trade and the multilateral trade system between Europe and Asia and cope with protectionism from the US. In addition, participants shared the same view on the importance of e-commerce at the WTO for the expansion of digital links between Asia and Europe and reaffirmed the importance of efforts to strengthen connections among transportation, logistics and energy.
On top of that, member countries welcomed the Seoul Initiative proposed by Korea which suggests the direction of ASEM cooperation in the era of the Fourth Industrial Revolution. Korea decided to move forward with related discussions at the next ASEM conference to be held in Seoul next year.
Member countries decided to hold the ASEM Economic Ministerial Meeting every two years and agreed that the next meeting will be held in Europe in 2019. The results of this meeting will be reported to the 12th ASEM Summit to be held next year in Brussels, Belgium.
On the other hand, the economic ministers of South Korea and China were expected to discuss China’s economic retaliation for South Korea’s deployment of the THAAD System, but the bilateral talks broke down as China sent a vice minister instead. However, it was reported that the Korean side expressed its concern about damage to Korean companies due to China’s retaliation to the Chinese side represented by Wang Shouwen, deputy director of the Chinese Ministry of Commerce.
"European representatives sympathized with South Korea’s position about China’s retaliation for the THAAD System, too. Many countries expressed their concern about the retaliation." a South Korean official said. “Especially, Europe showed a lot of concern about China's uncertainties."