New Strategies for Asian-European Cooperation

Manila Bulletin, March 14, 2005 | Go to article overview

New Strategies for Asian-European Cooperation


Byline: Speaker JOSE DE VENECIA JR.

(Statement delivered before the Hanns Seidel Foundation at the European Parliament, Brussels, Belgium, on March 3, 2005.)

A TRIPOD OF GLOBAL INTERDEPENDENCE IS BEGINNING TO TAKE SHAPE

This is a good time for us to get together to think on new strategies for AsianEuropean cooperation because the global configuration of power relationships is shifting.

A tripod of global interdependence made up of the European Union, North America, and an East Asian community is beginning to take shape, which could bring our world a new period of peace and prosperity.

EU emerging as an independent actor on the world stage

Customarily, we East Asians have lumped Western Europe and the United States together as the Western powers.

But this generic term is less and less useful an intellectual framework particularly for Asias foreign-policy makers.

Because Western Europe and the United States are differentiating.

The European Union is emerging as an independent actor on the global stage.

And President Bushs recent visit here to this capital-city of the new Europe signifies Americas recognition of this epochal shift in its historical relationships across the Atlantic.

In East Asia, a new configuration of relationships is also forming

Meanwhile, in Asia, too, a new configuration of staterelationships is forming.

China and the 10 Southeast Asian states already unified in ASEAN have just taken the first steps toward an East Asian Community by venturing on their own free-trade area.

Scheduled for completion in 2010, ASEAN-10 plus One will compose a potential market of over 1.7 billion people; a combined GDP of US$ 2.1 trillion; and total external trade of $1.3 trillion.

And obviously an ASEAN-China free trade area will be irresistible to both Japan and South Korea.

Neither of these two industrial heavyweights both of whom already count China as their No. 1 trading partner can afford to stay away from such a market and export platform at their doorstep.

So that if ASEAN-10 plus China takes off, we may be sure an East Asian Economic Grouping an ASEAN-10 plus Three cannot be far behind. It is already in the works.

Politically, an East Asian community will contain China, Japan, and a united Korea

There will be immediate political benefits also from an East Asian community.

Just as the EU has embedded Germany irrevocably into a European community, so would an East Asian community contain and channel the energies of the vigorous peoples of China, Japan, and an eventual united Korea.

And since, for South Asia, India is itself becoming an engine of growth, it is likely that the whole Asian continent will eventually be incorporated in a federation of nations similar to that being organized by the European Union.

Last year in Islamabad, before the Association of Asian Parliaments for Peace, and last month in Manila, while meeting with the Myanmar Prime Minister Gen. Soe Win, I proposed that eventually the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) should merge to integrate Southeast Asia and South Asia under a long-term strategy to bring about the political and economic integration in all of Asia.

II. ASEAN AND EAST ASIAN UNIFICATION ON THE MODEL OF THE EUROPEAN UNION

In East Asia, regionalism has been slow to develop not only because of historical discords but also because of competitive economies and introspective political systems.

But ASEANs experience over this past generation proves that even the pluralist and multi-ethnic communities of East Asia can be unified despite the lack of an overarching Christian civilization similar to that which facilitated the unification of Western Europe.

Practical steps in cooperation of self-evident usefulness

Like the European Union, East Asia is pursing its political objectives by means of practical steps in economic and industrial cooperation of self-evident usefulness.

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