IN addition, the Philippines and the United States will be having more periodic consultations on broader regional security policy. Since the Gulf War of 1990, Washington has resorted increasingly to international coalition building and multilateral security cooperation when confronting security threats to its alliances. Americans want their ..... Cold-War peace dividend. They believe that the allies should now take greater responsibility for common security, with primary emphasis on their own regions.
Washington's backing for Canberra's lead role in East Timor reflects this kind of thinking. The West generally saw East Timor as a regional rather than as an internal Indonesian crisis. Washington encouraged a multilateral approach to the crisis that placed regional countries out in front in the common effort to help stabilize East Timor. The Americans provided key logistical support for international operations in East Timor, but, otherwise, they stayed well in the background. Such multilateral approaches are being talked about in Washington as a possible model for future regional crisis management.
The Clinton Administration has enunciated a policy of building especially strong ties with what American policy makers have called major regional states. US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright has identified four such states, one each in a key region: Indonesia in Asia; the Ukraine in Eastern Europe; Colombia in South America; and Nigeria in Africa. These four have common characteristics. They are all emerging democracies. They are of major strategic importance within their regions. They have had governmental cohesion and effectiveness in their post-dictatorship development.
Washington policymakers are also interested in closer cooperation among America's allies and friends in the AsiaPacific. Some would like to see multilateral military exercises in the region. Closer cooperation activities for such search and rescue and natural disaster management is being examined.
US regional security policy has been most successful in Europe. Washington has spearheaded a special Southeastern Europe initiative, and it has brought together the new nations the former Eastern Bloc and the Soviet Union its partnership for peace program with NATO members and friends of the West. It is premature to say whether these same approaches can be transplanted to the Asia-Pacific.
On top of this, we must consider the broadening discussion in the United States on the structure and deployment of America's forward military presence that would be best suited for the 21st Century strategic environment of the Asia-Pacific.
If, for the sake of argument, Seoul and Pyongyang conclude a durable peace and agree on a reunification formula, how will this affect the 100,000 United States troops that are now deployed in the region, mainly as a deterrent against aggression on the Korean Peninsula? Would the United States draw down its forces across the board, or will there be realignments between forces committed on land and those devoted to littoral and sea-based missions?
The last is a key consideration, because the seas of the Asia-Pacific may become zones of intensified strategic competition. Our region has numerous maritime territorial disputes in the South China Sea, the Yellow Sea and the Taiwan Straits. The vast bulk of the region's international trade and all-important oil routes are sea-borne. Arguments over offshore hydrocarbon deposits and other marine resources, may exacerbate disputes that are well contained today. A naval race in the region, as well as a missile race in the region, is not inconceivable.
The Philippines, will be a partner of the United States through the bilateral RP-US alliance as well as through various regional initiatives focused on Asia-Pacific security. We will continue to work closely in the ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF), which is the region's sole body for regional security consultations. Other measures in regional security cooperation will have to be considered, including collaborative efforts to counter the common scourge of piracy, maritime smuggling and the traffic in human beings.
Overall, should regard our bilateral alliance with the United States not just as the centerpiece of our external defense, but also as a component of a broader regional strategy. If multilateralism becomes a preferred model for regional security cooperation, the Philippines should take an active part in its design and realization.
Regional economic cooperation
Our concerns with security, however, are not limited to political and defense questions alone. Economic and social stability have always been quintessential for national stability. In our post-Cold War period, where globalization has made dramatic advances, economic cooperation is now also for its importance to regional stability. The implicit belief in this worldview is that as nations that were once Cold War adversaries foster closer economic links with one another, and become more dependent on each other for growth and prosperity, the fewer reasons they will have for armed conflict.
The Philippines has been an active player in regional cooperation for more than three decades. Early experiments like ASA and MAPHILINDO eventually led to the formation of ASEAN, of which our country was a founding member. For its first twenty years, ASEAN focused on encouraging greater contact and mutual trust among its members.
In the early nineties, economic relationships became more pronounced. The ASEAN Free Trade Area (AFTA) was launched as the centerpiece of a bold regional decision to hasten ASEAN's regional economic integration. AFTA has been followed by other initiatives towards the same general goal.
ASEAN was the core of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) process. The Asia-Pacific region, which encompasses, ASEAN, is the location of many of the world's economic powerhouses and dynamic emerging economies. APEC was designed to bring down barriers to trade and investment and to strengthen overall growth within the region. This is intended to give Asia-Pacific even greater prominence within the WTO where global trade rules are formulated.
Unfortunately, the East Asian part of the Asia-Pacific was severely jolted by economic crisis that began in 1997. Recovery has been slow and painful. In many of the most affected economies, growth is still tentative and countries are still striving to regain lost ground in income and social terms.
These reverses have delayed market-opening liberalization and deregulation among many regional economies. Beyond the region, as was so visibly demonstrated in Seattle last December and elsewhere, we may be seeing the first major backlash against globalization as a principle upon which to build a new generation of international cooperation and multilateral institutions.
As in the security arena, the United States has been a key partner of the Philippines and other regional countries in APEC and through ASEAN. Since the United States is the most important foreign market and source of investment and technology for many economies in the region, it is naturally central to any system or region-wide cooperation.
There has been a convergence on such cooperation between the interests of Washington and most Asia-Pacific nations. Regional economic cooperation has been a major pillar of post-Cold War American policy towards Asia since APEC was initiated.
Washington was much criticized at the start of the Asian financial crisis for what was long seen as too slow and too tentative a response. In addition, some felt the United States had used the financial crisis to intensify World Bank and IMF economic austerity and market-opening measures that only worsened the effects of the crisis and hampered recovery programs.
However, Washington eventually placed its considerable influence behind international efforts to stabilize the worst affected Asian economies, Indonesia in particular. Rescue packages were provided, as countries strengthened their own financial surveillance and tried to sustain economic reforms. The region has come back from the crisis much sooner than many market observers had expected.
And of course, the American market remains primordial importance for the region. During the crisis, the United States was the market of last resort for Asian exports. We should be concerned protectionism could rise again in the United States. Such a tendency may be reinforced if there is an economic slow-down in the United States, or if the United States is saddled by high deficits with ASEAN trade partners, which disaffect key American political constituencies.
On the other hand, if the American economy grows even modestly over the next few years, with enough new jobs being made, we could probably rely on healthy import demand to absorb our exports. Growth would also act as a spur for more American companies and venture capital to expand in East Asia, if we can sustain regional recovery.
I believe that what we must do in the interim is to draw the right conclusions from the recent financial crisis. We should not pretend that we could avoid what cannot be avoided. In this modern era of pervasive transnational contact and of continuous, comprehensive and cosmopolitan interaction, the Philippines could never afford to opt out of the global system. The way forward is through more not less engagement with the global economy, for which we must prepare with renewed resolve.
Most of advantages in this era of globalization lie with the democracies. Democracies have the internal capacity to absorb the social changes required to manage the massive impact of globalization. Democracies are not, and if they are should not be afraid of the outside world. Provided the Philippines has overall political stability and sensible economic management, democracy can give the Philippines a powerful competitive edge.
It is of the utmost importance that the Philippines capitalize on this openness vis-a-vis the United States and other nations. To be sure, economic and cultural protection may appear to be, and at times may really be, a short-term necessity. The longer term trajectory, however, must be in the direction of integrating ourselves into the global economy partnership with others.…