Silk Road Headlines_12th February, 2020

The new year and decade started with several ominous signs that bespoke major systemic risks, risks that pertain to the climate (the Australian bushfires), to global public health security (coronavirus), to the EU project (Brexit), and to energy security in the Persian Gulf region and beyond (in the aftermath of the American assassination of the Gen. Soleimani). These are problems that affect us collectively and entail a collective response. However, the world is moving away from multilateralism. Recent dynamics in WTO both show the perils of unilateralism and the promises of collective action. WTO’s dispute-settlement mechanism or appellate body is suffering from an American-induced paralysis at the moment. EU, China, and 15 other countries (including Canada, Brazil, Australia, South Korea) have recently come up with an ad-hoc mechanism to settle disputes, thus replacing the WTO appellate body. It is not an alliance against any country but is an instance of a collective action that is needed to stand up for collective interests and a rule-based international (economic) system [Escaping spiralling global uncertainty]. If such collective action is possible at the economic level it should be possible to have it at other levels too.

The ad-hoc WTO appellate body speaks volumes about the potential advantages of cooperation between the EU and China in particular [Hi-tech cooperation between #China and #EU has huge potential] and, one could argue, the idea of European strategic autonomy in general. The latter is becoming increasing necessary, even perhaps vital, for the EU, under current geopolitical, geo-economic, and climate conditions. EU throwing its weight in the right direction (the direction of a sustainable rule-based system) can make a major difference to the world and to itself, weather it finds China or the US on its side or not. Such actions can give the idea of EU’s strategic autonomy a tangible reality and increase its momentum. If achieved, this strategic autonomy can enable the EU to contribute to offsetting all the risks mentioned above, be they related to climate, Iran nuclear deal (a collective multilateral action/deal which was hampered by Trump's unilateral withdrawal from it), global public health, global technical standardization [China and the New Geopolitics of Technical Standardization], and the like. We live in an interconnected world in which we face existential or systemic risks collectively or have to come up with a response to them collectively. A more autonomous EU can play a distinctively positive role at this critical juncture in global history.

By Clingendael