Covid-19 as a catalyst of asymmetric bilateralism: ASEM’s vulnerable position and economic salience as a saviour of the EU-Asia multilateral relations

JAVIER MARTÍN MERCHÁN, LAURA PAÍNO PEÑA

Abstract


The unprecedented global health crisis caused by COVID-19 has unleashed individual, self-centred
responses in most states, including Asian and European countries. Multilateralism may be more
imperative than ever, but the Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM) does not seem to epitomise a feasible
international platform to guide cooperation. This article attempts to assess whether the ASEM still
constitutes a relevant instrument of intercontinentalism, as there seem to be indications suggesting
that EU-Asia relations will not abandon their apparent multilateral stalemate. In fact, ASEM could
rather deepen asymmetries between a highly institutionalised EU and an institutionally devoid Asia.
Notwithstanding, the current pandemic offers ASEM an unprecedented opportunity to recover some
salience as a relevant multilateral EU-Asia platform, namely, the centrality of economics. Given the
irremediable necessity to strengthen economic cooperation to alleviate the impact of COVID-19, this is
a unique opportunity to strengthen connectivity as well as a multilateral cooperation and governance
that would otherwise blur.


Keywords


ASEM, asymmetric bilateralism, COVID-19, economic relations, multilateralism

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.30722/anzjes.vol13.iss2.15602

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