Regionalization of Multilateralism

Jay Wennington from Unsplash
Jay Wennington from Unsplash

One of the most interesting and surprising phenomena enhanced by the pandemic is a renewal in regional organizations’ proactivity – with the EU’s initial response well documented caveat. From ASEAN’s quick communicational response to the West African Regional Bloc’s (Ecowas) decision to choose collective action in order to address the crisis, as well as related implications on social and educational levels. We also bear witness to the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC), which has not convened since 2014, but suddenly became so important that the Indian Prime Minister decided to inject $10m into the SAARC despite the economic challenges that India currently faces. A by-product of this trend is the creation of ad-hoc multilateral cooperation like the initiative led by Austria to discuss travel ties, for tourism and business, with other countries that have successfully contained the pandemic.

While it is too soon to tell if this an enduring trend, multilateralism is definitely changing. Regionalization of multilateralism opens up a range of new opportunities for economic recovery, including the opening of new markets and areas of post-pandemic cooperation, investment opportunities, knowledge sharing and the establishment of new supply chains for states and businesses alike.

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Japan Is the New Leader of Asia’s Liberal Order

Chang Che, Foreign Affairs (24.02.21)

Over the last decade, and especially over the last four years, Japan has emerged as a quiet leader in the Indo-Pacific. While the United States abandoned its allies and succumbed to illiberal populism under President Donald Trump, Japan remained a stalwart of the liberal, rules-based international order. It deepened ties with its neighbors, expanded multilateral initiatives, and set the regional agenda on trade and digital governance, among other issues. Through a combination of good timing, clear-eyed leadership, and innovative domestic reform, the island nation has proved not only a reliable partner to the United States and its allies in the Indo-Pacific but an architect of the region’s emerging liberal order.

How China, Japan and South Korea can make their carbon neutral goals a reality – and drive change worldwide

Alistair Ritchie and Jackson Ewing, SCMP (29.11.20)

The East Asian powers are moving on climate change. With Japan, China and South Korea responsible for one-third of global emissions, East Asia’s growing ambition is the biggest international climate change development since the Paris Agreement was ratified. These countries can be leaders in the fight against climate change if they ensure policies align with their ambitious goals.

To combat climate change and nature loss, multilateralism is key: Nordic countries

Modern Diplomacy (16.11.20)

The 2020 consultations between the five Nordic countries – Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden – and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) generated substantial and frank discussions on issues like climate change, nature and sustainable development.

China may join trade pact that replaced Trans-Pacific Partnership, Xi Jinping tells APEC

Amanda Lee, SCMP (21.11.20)

China will actively consider joining the Comprehensive and Progressive Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (CPTPP), while the Asia-Pacific region must defend multilateralism and promote free and open trade and investment, Chinese President Xi Jinping said at the online Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit.

Who gains from RCEP, Asia’s new trade pact?

The Economist (21.11.20)

The world’s newest and biggest regional trade deal is not the deepest. It eliminates fewer tariffs than normal, and some only after two decades. Its coverage of services is patchy, as is that of agricultural goods. India is not a member. Still, when leaders met virtually to sign on the dotted line, they hailed the pact as a triumph.

East Africa Has Yet to Tap Its Full Maritime Potential

Ahmed Hersi and Roba D Sharamo, All Africa (11.11.20)

By not managing and using shared maritime resources, East African states are missing an opportunity to build their economies, create jobs and new industries, and nourish a growing population. With five coastal countries in IGAD, a Regional Maritime Council could boost economic growth, trade integration and livelihoods.

Looking Ahead: RCEP, Regional Value Chains and Indo-Pacific Recovery

Jeffrey Wilson, Perth USAsia Centre, Asia Society (26.10.20)

RCEP will be the world’s second-most important trade agreement on arrival, ranking behind only the WTO itself- and it seems to promise a significant contribution to the Indo-Pacific economies. Jeffrey Wilson indicates the importance of the RCEP as a “value-chain enabling” trade agreement, which will help rebuild regional connections severed by the COVID crisis.

MENA: Trade and Regional Integration are Critical to Economic Recovery in the Post-Covid Era

Modern Diplomacy (20.10.20)

Trade and integration — within the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region and with the rest of the world — will be critical to lowering poverty, empowering the poor, and igniting economic growth in the post-COVID era, according to the World Bank’s latest regional economic update.

Europe still lacks a foreign policy

The Economist (30.07.20)

A coherent foreign policy in current circumstances would make sense. Instead the EU has a contradictory one.

The EU’s leaders have agreed on a €750bn Covid-19 recovery package

The Economist (21.07.20)

The union will borrow vast sums collectively for the first time. The deal has two elements: the regular eu budget, or multiannual financial framework (mff), worth nearly €1.1trn ($1.3tn) over seven years; and a one-off “Next Generation EU” (ngeu) fund of €750bn to help countries recover from the Covid-19 recession (both figures in 2018 prices).

Dancing with elephants: Why regionalism is the new globalism for NZ

John McCrone, Stuff (18.07.20)

Even before coronavirus, global political power was in the middle of seismic shifts. So how will things look after we emerge from the pandemic?

The Case for Regionalism in a Post-Coronavirus World

Mathew Maavak, Modern Diplomacy (16.07.20)

Will governments, ossified by age-old bureaucratic traditions, be willing to tap into the synergies of people-centric regionalism?

Covid-19: a win for regionalisation

Oxford Business Group (28.05.20)

Covid-19, along with the related disruptions to the movement of goods and people, has compounded the challenges facing globalisation. With the breakdown of supply chains leading to concerns over the provision of key goods during the crisis, some emerging markets had moved towards regionalisation in an effort to share risks.

Has covid-19 killed globalisation?

The Economist (14.05.20)

The flow of people, trade and capital will be slowed

Could travel bubbles offer a route to economic recovery?

The Economist (14.05.20)

The economic gains would be large, but the health requirements could be vexing.

Post Covid-19, can emerging markets capitalise on a shift in manufacturing away from China

Oxford Business Group (14.05.20)

The coronavirus pandemic has sparked questions about whether China can sustain its position at the center of global manufacturing and supply chains.

A Post-Pandemic Revival for Regionalism: The Role of the EU

Yaroslav Lissovolik, Valdai Discussion Club (08.05.20)

The current international economic system is stress-tested by a series of systemic challenges ranging from trade disputes and protectionism to climate change and global scale epidemic. The response of the world community is constrained by lingering gaps in global governance as well as a lack of leadership across countries and regions in mustering a coordinated response to these daunting challenges. At this crucial juncture for the world economy, it is the regional layer of multilateral institutions and integration blocks that has the potential to overcome the excesses of narrow national self-interest and raise international cooperation to a higher level. The European Union as the most advanced regional integration block could play a leading role in creating a platform for cooperation among the regional integration arrangements and their development institutions for the benefit of the world economy.

Will COVID Revive Regional Manufacturing

George Leopold, Enterprise AI (07.05.20)

The vulnerabilities of global supply chains exposed by the pandemic have reignited calls for reconstituting regional production capabilities with the ultimate goal of “reshoring” manufacturing—mainly from China.

Global and regional governance: Initial response to the COVID-19 pandemic

Elena Lazarou, At a Glance, European Parliamentary Research Service (EPRS) (April 2020)

On 11 March 2020, the World Health Organization declared the spread of COVID-19 to be a pandemic, confirming the global impact of the disease. Across the world, regional and global international organizations are stepping up coordination to confront the medical crisis and mitigate its effects on economies, societies and individuals.

Covid-19 jolts West Africa pushes Ecowas to action

Mohammed Momoh, Daily Nation (28.04.20)

The West African regional bloc, Ecowas, is choosing collective action to save its nearly 400 million people from the spiraling effects of the novel coronavirus disease (Covid-19).

The impact of Covid-19 on the Middle East and North Africa

Hussein Solomon, Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs (21.04.20)

Middle Eastern and North African country responses to the pandemic are varied and their effects will determine the strength of current regional leadership and the necessity for reform in others.

At a Time of Crisis, ASEAN Centrality Really Matters

Rifki Dermawan, The Diplomat (17.04.20)

Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, multilateral cooperation as seen within ASEAN is necessary to share best practices and provide support.

COVID - 19 pandemic causes by far the largest-ever cybersecurity threat to the region and world

Regional Cooperation Council (07.04.20)

RCC hosts online SENSA and SEEMIC meetings amid COVID-19 pandemic

MERCOSUR approves emergency fund to face Covid-19

Prensa Latina, Agencia Informativa Latinoamericana (06.04.20)

The countries of the Southern Common Market (MERCOSUR) agreed to approve a structural convergence fund destined to Research, Education and Biotechnology applied to Health, which seeks to fight the novel SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus, currently hitting the world.

What the world can learn from regional responses to COVID-19

Anastasia Kalinina, New Atlanticist, Atlantic Council (04.04.20)

Regional integration projects around the world could be the first step to help countries jointly meet the challenges of COVID-19. In recent weeks we have witnessed many of them coming together to establish collective measures. What can we learn from regional organizations’ responses to COVID-19? And how can this help boost global collaboration efforts?

Can a Global Pandemic Resuscitate SAARC?

Bansari Kamdar, The Diplomat (25.03.20)

SAARC [South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation ] has been reactivated as South Asia braces for the worst of COVID–19. India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi proposed a SAARC Emergency Fund to combat the COVID–19 epidemic in South Asia with an initial offer of $10 million from India. Five of seven countries contributed to the Fund.

AfDB announces bold measures to curb coronavirus

Newsroom (24.03.20)

The African Development Bank on Wednesday Announced health and safety measures to help prevent the spread of the coronavirus in countries where it has a presence, including its headquarters in Abidjan. The measures include telecommuting, video conferencing in lieu of physical meetings, the suspension of visits to Bank buildings, and the cancellation of all travel, meetings, and conferences, until further notice.

Pandemic Control: A New Area for ASEAN Defense Cooperation?

Henrick Z. Tsjeng, The Diplomat (17.03.20)

ASEAN could modify military humanitarian assistance and disaster relief mechanisms to support regional healthcare systems in times of crisis.

Areas for improvement in ASEAN multilateralism

Shawn Ho, The ASEAN Post (08.03.20)

Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) plays a leading and central role in the region’s multilateralism as it hosts and sets the agenda for numerous meetings that include non-Southeast Asian states to discuss a wide range of issues. While ASEAN-led multilateral mechanisms have largely succeeded in preventing the outbreak of conflicts and wars in the region, there are still areas in which ASEAN can improve.

Why arms control is (almost) dead

Ulrich Kühn, Carnegie Europe (05.03.20)

The next arms control agreement will have to include more actors and weapons platforms across multiple domains—as well as more effort from middle-sized powers to act where the so-called big ones won’t act anymore

Top Global Risks of 2020: Regionalization & Isolation

Yasemin Zeisl, Global Risk Intel (12.02.20)

An increase in regionalization and isolation policies in the global arena could exacerbate trade wars, impact the international workforce and could also incentivize regional leadership and markets.