Japan and the European Union have concluded a connectivity partnership that seeks to cement cooperation while setting global development standards. The wide-ranging initiative ratifies their commitment to building quality infrastructure in developing countries and to ensure that aid to those countries helps recipients, rather than saddling them with unsustainable debt. It also aims to fill a leadership gap created by the shrinking multilateral profile of the United States under President Donald Trump and to balance China’s efforts in its Belt and Road initiative (BRI). Most importantly, it consolidates the Japan-EU partnership, a relationship that continues to assume greater significance.
Europe has concluded — rightfully — that its relations with Asia are weak. While there has been a Europe-Asia political dialogue (the ASEM meeting) since 1996, it has lacked substance. Europe has been more focused on security concerns closer to home along with domestic political developments. While the EU is a formidable economic force, it has never used that heft strategically.