Europe–Asia Relations: Building Multilateralisms , by R. Balme and B. Bridges ( Basingstoke : Palgrave Macmillan , ISBN 9780230550674 ); xvii + 269pp. , £60.00 hb .

Regionalization in Asia has been declared lifeless and unpromising on many occasions. Yet every time an analyst conducts a post-mortem of Asian regionalization, countries in the region surprise with novel co-operation. This fact has also helped gradually to develop relations between regional organizations in Asia and the European Union. The volume seeks to discuss the accomplishments and prospects of Euro–Asia relations in the context of this particular inter-regional co-operation.

The introduction gives an excellent overview of the development of relations between the two regions. It argues that the collapse of communism in 1989 led European politicians to rethink relations with Asia. The need for more coherence paved the way to more inter-regional co-operation. While interdependencies between the economies of Asia and Europe made co-operation necessary, at the same time political agreements increased trade between the continents. Balme and Bridges mention the Commission's ‘Asia strategy’ document which kick-started the process in 1994. The authors point out that the end of the cold war immediately raised questions relating to the balance of power between nations and regions alike. The development of multilateral structures was seen as a counterweight to US hegemony. The volume points out that the EU has utilized a number of organizations in order to achieve lasting ties with Asia (ASEM, ASEAN, the WTO and the UN).

The first section of the book explains in detail which mechanisms the EU has developed to engage with Asia. It also discusses Asian responses and the broader economic, social and political dimensions underpinning these processes. François Godement offers many insights into the development of EU–Asia relations by comparing meetings between the two continents over a whole decade. In chapter 3, Karen Smith analyses decision-making within the EU with regards to Asia. She paints a complex picture of the interactions that are at the heart of the EU's policies. Chapter 4 looks into the factors underpinning the EU's approach towards its relations with Asia. They highlight that the EU and ASEAN were at first interested in developing economic relations. However, over time political elements entered the process. Leo Lay Hwee uses chapter 5 to explore how regional actors have adapted their behaviour to rising expectations.

The second section of the book then turns to patterns of bilateralism. In this part of the book, the authors seek to identify how bilateral relations were influenced by inter-regional co-operation. Richard Balme starts with an analysis of the European strategy towards China. He concludes that China, despite the accomplishments of recent years, is still obsessed with the idea that the US and Europe are trying to construct a post-cold war international system based on western values. The remaining chapters in this section are similarly clear and precise in their analysis. I can highly recommend this book to any student of regionalism and the EU more generally.