I welcome this opportunity to address current developments in Asia and the Government’s policies towards the region.
The most dramatic change in the world economy in recent decades has been the rise of Asia – both of individual countries as economic powers, and of the region as a whole. Asian regional cooperation used to be based on how countries defined their relationship with external actors such as the US or major European powers. Now, both self-interest and perceptions of common interests and values drive regional integration. More than half the world’s population lives in Asia, a continent that accounts for 34 % of the world’s GDP and 28 % of world trade. The Asian Development Bank has estimated that by 2050 more than 50 % of global GDP will be generated in Asia – compared to 27 % today. This means that in 20 years’ time, most of the economic growth in the world is likely to take place in Asia. At the same time, we should not forget the other side of the coin: territorial disputes, nationalism, historical mistrust and ideological differences all influence regional development. Many Asian states are vulnerable to changes in the global climate. Eighty per cent of the world’s natural disasters occur in Asia. Two thirds of the world’s poor live in Asia – most of them in the populous Asian middle-income states. The energy needs of the continent will be doubled by 2030, and half of this increase will be in China. The gas deal announced yesterday between Russia and China is significant.
This poses great challenges for the developmental path of Asian states, both individually and collectively.
Trade and economic developments in Asia
There is a good chance that we – the Western world – will continue to act as we have in Asia ever since the late 18th century: that we will pursue the potential for profit and the prosperous markets, just as when Japan and China first opened up for trade.
Our objective is to have a presence in the region. To protect our own interests. And to benefit from the growth in Asia.
What do we have to lose, if we don’t achieve this objective? We risk being bypassed by the rapid political changes that are taking place. Economic development paves the way for political influence. We are witnessing a global reshuffling of power as a result of changes in the distribution of economic strength. This has implications for global political priorities.
We must rethink our positions.
- In closing, let me thank Professor Park and the highly capable team at NUPI for two valuable reports, and for this opportunity to share my thoughts with you today.
- The pull of the Asian economies is not without political ramifications.
- Asian states have an interest in translating economic power into political power – nationally, regionally and globally.
- We welcome this development, but at the same time we must make sure that our own interests are aligned accordingly and are effectively upheld.
- Our economic and trade interests in the region must be given high priority. Having said this, we must not neglect the wider political developments in the region or our deeply-rooted Norwegian values and policies, such as maintaining an international framework based on the rule of law, human rights and sustainable development.
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