Asian states and its societies are keen on promoting cooperation in the region to build a peaceful and cooperative region. ASEAN Plus Three and East Asian Summit are two of these initiatives.
With the ASEAN integration on tract, and the Charter coming into force on 15 December 2008, 6 of ASEAN’s economic ministers have already met in Singapore to sign three economic agreements that will push the momentum forward for the grouping’s economic integration.
In APEC, 21 economies consisting of 55% of the world’s GDP and 50% of world trade also share the common vision of promoting free trade and investment. Singapore and Japan are two Asian members that will be hosting this event in 2009 and 2010 respectively.
Meanwhile, a new initiative seems to be on the horizon. An article by Paul Kelly appeared in the Australian on 20 December 2008 which advocated on behalf of Australian PM Kevin Rudd’s proposal for an Asia Pacific Community.
Malaysia’s no objection to US and Russian participation in the East Asia Summit indicate a positive way forward as a sign of implicit Malaysian approval of the Rudd initiative.
Some however, are urging a rethink due to a proliferation of such regional groups in recent times, including the ASEAN Dialogue system, the ARF, ASEAN Plus three, East Asia Summit, APRC and ASEAN itself.
ASEAN is at the center of many of these abovementioned initiatives and there are worry that the Australian initiative would confuse the centrality of ASEAN’s role in the region that has been working well thus far.
Opponents of the Rudd initiative are worried that the new architecture may undermine the regional structures that are already in place.
Advocates of caution against the Australian regional initiatives are urging the region’s decision-makers to strengthen existing institutions and processes rather than establishing new ones.
Koh, Tommy, “2009: Reasons for optimism” dated 7 Jan 2009 (Singapore: Straits Times), 2009, p. A23.
Severino, Rodolfo, “What’s the point of a new Asia Pacific architecture?” dated dated 7 Jan 2009 (Singapore: Straits Times), 2009, p. A23.