In the last two decades, the vast regions of Asia and Europe have moved closer to each other, resulting in the establishment of a number of cooperation and coordination mechanisms, including the Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM). Bringing together the 28 members of the European Union (EU), the 10 members of the Association for Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), China, Japan, and the South Korea, India, Mongolia, Nepal, Pakistan, Australia, New Zealand, Russia, Switzerland, Norway and Bangladesh, the ASEM represents one of the biggest and most consequential global platforms for inter-regional dialogue. Put together, Asia and Europe represent 52% of global Gross Domestic Product (GDP), 68% of global trade, and 60 % of the world population.
The increased mutual interest between Asia and Europe has also brought progressive forces from both regions closer together. The upcoming ASEM Summit in Milan 16-17 October has created the momentum to unite SOCDEM Asia and the Global Progressive Forum (a cooperation between the Party of European Socialist and the Socialists and Democrats Group in the European Parliament) to discuss a common progressive agenda.
ASEM cooperation, up until today, had a very strong focus on economic recovery, trade liberalization and sustained growth. Social protection and decent work is mentioned only in the fringes of the ASEM Chair’s conclusions, and marginal attention is given to the plethora of measures that can be implemented to promote equality.