Europa's 'slimme draai' naar het oosten

MADRID – Voor het eerst sinds eeuwen verschuift het zwaartepunt van de wereldeconomie naar het oosten. De Verenigde Staten zijn begonnen een 'draai' naar Azië te maken, en vooral de betrekkingen met China lijken voortdurend te flirten met de val van Thucydides, het historische patroon dat erop duidt dat een opkomende macht onvermijdelijk in botsing zal komen met een heersende macht. Maar waar past Europa in dit plaatje, nu de VS en China elkaar argwanend in de gaten houden als het om mondiale aangelegenheden gaat?

De Europese Unie bevindt zich op een historisch kruispunt, dat om zijn eigen 'draai' naar het oosten vraagt – een samenhangende en doortastende Aziatische strategie die is gebaseerd op de kracht van Europa. Hoewel de bevolking van de EU slechts een vijfde van de omvang van die van China en India samen bedraagt, en de militaire aanwezigheid van de EU in Azië minimaal is, is haar economie van €12,6 bln de grootste ter wereld.

Dit is niet onopgemerkt aan de Aziatische regeringen voorbijgegaan, die zwaar afhankelijk zijn van economische groei om aan de vraag van hun jonge en groeiende bevolkingen naar werkgelegenheid en welvaart te kunnen voldoen. Momenteel is Azië de voornaamste handelspartner van de EU, groter dan Noord-Amerika, en neemt het continent een derde van de totale handel van de EU voor zijn rekening. Alleen al de handel met China vertegenwoordigt  een waarde van ruim €1 mrd per dag, waardoor hij slechts de handel met de VS vóór zich moet laten.

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