Academic journal article Contemporary Southeast Asia

The Australia-Japan Partnership in the Asia-Pacific: From Economic Diplomacy to Security Co-Operation?

Academic journal article Contemporary Southeast Asia

The Australia-Japan Partnership in the Asia-Pacific: From Economic Diplomacy to Security Co-Operation?

Article excerpt

Australia and Japan have been acclaimed as taking joint initiatives in establishing regional economic institutions such as the Pacific Economic Co-operation Council and the Asia-Pacific Economic Co-operation forum. This article seeks to establish why both countries have been able to forge a partnership in an Asia-Pacific economic community. The article identifies three elements of the partnership in institution-building: shared interests in building institutions of regional economic cooperation; power complementarity between the two countries compensating for their respective diplomatic shortcomings; and a corps of influential policy personnel working for regional economic co-operation. The article then looks at the partnership moving towards defence and security co-operation.

Introduction

Australia--Japan relations have developed to the extent that they have evolved into a partnership in the Asia-Pacific region based on shared interests and common identity, as Prime Minister John Howard declared during his visit to Japan in September 1996. Significant achievements of the partnership have been the joint initiatives in creating regional economic institutions, such as the Pacific Economic Co-operation Council (PECC) in 1980 and the Asia-Pacific Economic Co-operation (APEC) forum in 1989. Prime Minister Malcolm Fraser said of such endeavours by the two countries: "APEC[ldots]is a creation of a great deal of painstaking effort and diplomacy over about 20 years. The move for such an organization has been driven by politicians in Japan and Australia, by the business community in both countries and also by linkages between universities." [1]

After resolving 'bilateral trade disputes over beef and sugar in the 1970s, Japan and Australia worked together in organizing the Pacific Community Seminar at the Australian National University (ANU) in Canberra in September 1980, an event which is now regarded as the first PECC meeting. This was the earliest example of the success of the Australia--Japan partnership in contributing to the Asia-Pacific region at the governmental level. Yuichiro Nagatomi, Prime Minister Masayoshi Ohira's chief policy assistant, attributed the success of the seminar partly to three strong and long-established ties among Australian and Japanese leaders: Ohira and Foreign Minister Saburo Okita, Okita and seminar chairman John Crawford, and Crawford and Prime Minister Fraser. [2] The origins of the PECC can be traced to Ohira's Pacific Basin Co-operation Concept, and the idea of setting up a nongovernmental seminar stemmed from an agreement between Fraser and Ohira in Canberra, in January 1980. The Australian and Japanese sides p roceeded with frequent consultations and co-ordination at both governmental and academic levels, culminating in the ANU's successful organization of the seminar.

Both countries were also co-operatively engaged in developing the APEC initiative which Australian Prime Minister Bob Hawke announced in Seoul in January 1989. The actual creation and the circumstances of the announcement of the initiative were at the instigation of Hawke and his advisers in the Prime Minister's office, but the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) came to play a major role in developing and promoting the idea after the Hawke announcement. Japan's Ministry of International Trade and Industry (MITI) had floated a proposal for economic ministers' regional meetings in mid-1988 and the DFAT expressed strong interest in the idea, which urged co-ordination between the two countries. A MITI delegation visited the regional countries to sound-out reactions for its proposal and Hawke's initiative in March 1989, which laid the "groundwork" for the Hawke proposal's relatively easy acceptance when an Australian delegation later visited the regional countries in April--May 1989. Although MITI's p roposal was eventually subsumed into the Hawke initiative, MITI took the position that the establishment of APEC amounted to success of its own proposal. …

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