As current multilateral order evolves in a hardly-predictable pattern, the EU must adopt a more strategic approach in developing its relations around the globe, particularly with the most influential players and fastest-growing economies. This is already being reflected in the traditional and “purely economic” cooperation instruments.
In the 2014-2020 programming exercise, one of the main innovations is the “Partnership Instrument”, a tool meant to boost cooperation with strategic partners and main developing countries. Heir of the “Instrument for Cooperation with Industrialised Countries”, the new program will commit 1 billion € to tackle major global shifts that could result in a reduced competitiveness of the EU, such as the steady growth of BRICS, the political and economic consequences of climate change, or the growing competition in securing energy sources and raw materials.
Target countries have been selected all around the globe, from most of the G20 to Southeast Asia, America, China and Russia, and will be engaged in strengthening bilateral political dialogue, promote the external dimension of “Europe 2020 strategy”, support market access and reduce non-tariff barriers to trade, while enhancing EU visibility and public diplomacy activities.
The first “Action Plan” will finance a wide array of actions to tackle climate change, such as clean energy cooperation (India, South Korea, Gulf countries) or the support to low carbon-emitting industries (Brazil, Mexico). Most of this first batch, around 50 million €, will be however directed to trade facilitation for EU business in Asia (China, South Korea and ASEAN countries) through the “Business Gateway” projects.
The Partnership Instrument holds a two-fold added value: on one side, it may strengthen political cooperation with a “spill-over” approach and anticipate policy shifts that may hamper EU positions around the globe. On the other, it will nonetheless provide plenty of investment and growth opportunities, acting as a projection of both EU internal dimension and business interests in the fastest-growing portion of the world.