ASEAN ISIS and Think Tank Meeting
16 April 2009
1. At this time of global financial and economic crisis, there are growing opportunities and needs for ASEAN to reinforce its roles in East Asian regionalism, and in relations with the USA under the new Obama administration.
2. While its roots are in the USA and Europe, the crisis in global finance and economy has had regional effects. ASEAN is seeking ways to respond effectively, in partnership with its partners in East Asia and in coordination with institutions and processes for global governance such as the G20. One positive step has been that ASEAN was represented at the G20 London Summit by its current chair, Thailand.
3. Under the past Bush administration, the US missed several meetings of the ASEAN Regional Forum and the US-ASEAN Summit, after initially being agreed upon, was cancelled. US President Obama has called to establish relations with other states through partnerships that are multilateral, and this should be welcomed. The visit by US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to Asia and especially to Indonesia and the ASEAN Secretariat is noteworthy and should be followed up.
4. In addition to the global financial and economic crisis, there is concern about the environment and climate change, with negotiations on a post-2012 regime and the promised changes in US policy on climate change.
5. ASEAN has served as a hub in East Asian regionalism in recent years. Notwithstanding this, there are new suggestions of regional and sub-regional fora which would not include ASEAN or a special role for the Association. These include the idea for institutionalizing the Six-party talks on the Korean peninsula into a permanent regime for North East Asia, and the idea of an Asia Pacific Community suggested by Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd.
6. Domestic situations have recently delayed ASEAN Summits including the dialogues with key East Asian partners and global institutions. These have unfortunately affected efforts to have an early follow-up to the G20 meeting and further develop Asian cooperation.
7. Many ASEAN member countries have domestic issues that have risen in prominence. External relations have to continue to receive sufficient attention in order for ASEAN to retain its role in East Asian regionalism.
8. Recent developments in USA-Indonesia relations are indicative of a growing bilateral strategic partnership.
And recommended that:
9. ASEAN Community is an essential pre-requisite for the grouping to continue to influence and be a hub in the wider East Asian regionalization. ASEAN economic community must receive particular attention to change the mindset from cooperation to deeper integration that is supported by policy changes. Industrial and sectoral clustering amongst ASEAN member countries should also be emphasized for mutual benefit.
10. ASEAN community and unity is a central foundation to its regional role. While ASEAN can and should participate fully and centrally in East Asian regionalism, it need not be fixated on being in the driver’s seat for all processes. There can be other and additional contributions that ASEAN can make to other processes in the region.
11. There is a need for ASEAN to continue and indeed reinforce its role in East Asian regionalism. To this end, ASEAN should not delay in reconvening the ASEAN Summit and dialogue with partners. The first preference should be to reconvene the meeting in Thailand as the ASEAN chair, unless Thailand deems it appropriate to host it elsewhere. In addition to reconvening the Summit, meetings among relevant ministers in the ASEAN dialogue processes should be held as needed.
12. East Asian regional processes especially the ASEAN +3 should continually update and deepen its cooperation mechanisms in light of the global financial and economic turmoil. The current and growing efforts in currency stability are welcome, especially with Japanese and Chinese commitments to the joint fund. Beyond this, the ASEAN+3 countries should look more broadly to coordinate their stimulus packages and increase intra-Asian investment and, in the middle to longer term, consumption.
13. ASEAN can and should continue to seek representation at the G20 meetings, whether by its chair for the time-being, or such other representative as ASEAN considers appropriate. The ASEAN member countries have experiences and perspectives to share and should encourage the necessary reforms in the economies of America and Europe.
14. ASEAN should engage in dialogue with the global financial institutions especially the IMF and World Bank. ASEAN should contribute actively to the reform of these institutions with particular attention to the needs and priorities of developing countries and the interdependent, global nature of the world economy. Participation, transparency and accountability must be principles that ASEAN encourages in the reform of these institutions. As new financial supervisory mechanisms are developed, ASEAN member countries should also participate actively in developing new standards and areas for regulation.
15. ASEAN unity and cooperation should be re-emphasized. Even as ASEAN member countries deepen bilateral ties with different states outside the Association, ASEAN should continue to be a key priority for all member countries. While it is open for ASEAN member countries to individually develop such relations these bilateral relations should ideally help strengthen the overall relationship with ASEAN and not distract from the building of ASEAN community. The growing US-Indonesia relationship should be developed in this context.
16. ASEAN should not formulate a position on the Australian proposal for an Asia Pacific Community until the purposes and modalities for the new grouping are further clarified, including the potential overlaps with existing processes in Asia and the Asia-Pacific. There are dangers if we undermine the existing processes, especially when it is not clear if this idea would be able to succeed where the existing processes already face challenges.
17. Given US Secretary Clinton’s statement on the Treaty of Amity and Cooperation (TAC), ASEAN should assist the USA to fully understand and study the treaty and appreciate its practices in Asia. ASEAN has to consider and signal whether American accession to the TAC should lead to the USA being invited to participate in the East Asian Summit and, if so, whether any other participants should also be invited, as well as the criteria for such decisions.
18. Climate change is another important global issue on which ASEAN should engage Asian countries and the USA. ASEAN will gain from developing a more cohesive policy on environment and climate change, in tandem with economic integration and energy policies. There are issues that may need to be considered to gain from the new regime and dispersion of green and climate-friendly technologies in ASEAN from other Asian countries and from the USA. There are also issues that may be of concern such as the pursuit of nuclear energy production if this is undertaken without due regard to safety and legitimate concerns about transboundary effects.
19. The ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF) should continue to develop to remain the leading multilateral security dialogue and process for the wider region. The ARF should proceed with the changes as agreed in its recent review. Major powers including the USA should participate consistently in the Forum. As the ARF has agreed on the principles for preventive diplomacy, ASEAN should explore the application of preventive diplomacy to specific situations/issues.
20. The APEC forum and its processes should be supported by those ASEAN member countries who are currently members and membership should be sought for all ASEAN member countries. APEC should focus more on the economic crisis and linked issues. Social impacts of the crisis from the perspectives and experiences from developing countries should be among the issues discussed at APEC.
21. ASEAN member countries that are APEC members should invite the US to meet at the sidelines of the APEC Summit. The possibility should also be explored to invite the three ASEAN member countries who are not currently APEC member economies to this sideline meeting.