Academic journal article The Australian Journal of Politics and History

Nagano Shigeo: Business Leadership in the Asia Pacific Region and the Formation of the Pacific Basin Economic Council

Academic journal article The Australian Journal of Politics and History

Nagano Shigeo: Business Leadership in the Asia Pacific Region and the Formation of the Pacific Basin Economic Council

Article excerpt


Australia and Japan have been widely acknowledged as having played a key role in the establishment of the two major regional economic institutions: the Pacific Economic Cooperation Council (PECC) in 1980 and the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum in 1989. These initiatives emerged from both countries' long-term and consistent interest in regional approaches to economic cooperation, which were partly sustained through a considerable period of interaction and endeavour among intellectual and business circles in the region. Former Australian Prime Minister, Malcolm Fraser, comments:

   APEC [...] is a creation of a great deal of painstaking effort and
   diplomacy over about 20 years. The move for such an organisation has been
   driven by politicians in Japan and Australia, by the business community in
   both countries and also by linkages between universities. (1)

An early network of academic and business ties developed through the Pacific Trade and Development (PAFTAD) forum, a regular conference among policy-oriented economists about regional economies and economic cooperation, (2) and the Pacific Basin Economic Council (PBEC), an annual convention of business leaders in the region. Both institutions were established in 1968. The principal participants in this forum have been private players, although they have developed and exercised influence in the evolution of government policy through the establishment of regional cooperation arrangements.

This article examines the formation of PBEC by focusing on the driving forces behind the development. PBEC has now established itself as a major regional economic institution by bringing together more than 700 business leaders and political leaders from more than 25 countries around the Pacific and has served as a link between the two sectors for regional economic cooperation. PBEC's purpose is to engage in consultations and an exchange of views on a multilateral basis among business people in the Pacific Basin and its principal objectives include improving the business environment and increasing international trade and investment. PBEC developed out of the annual joint meetings of the Australia-Japan Business Cooperation Committee (AJBCC) in Australia and the Japan-Australia Business Committee (JABCC) in Japan and the first joint annual meeting was held in 1963. The crux of the analysis is how individual business leaders in both countries came to conceive the basic ideas for PBEC by interpreting the international environment anew, how these ideas were refined to form policy, and how leaders persuaded potential participants to join these institutions. Two business leaders were central to establishing PBEC: Shigeo Nagano, President of the Fuji Steel Company, and Vice-Chairman of JABCC, and W.R.C. Anderson, Director of the Associated Chambers of Manufactures of Australia and Executive Director of AJBCC. Nagano had long entertained the idea of Pacific cooperation, and Anderson, who was impressed by Nagano's idea at the first joint meeting of JABCC and AJBCC, responded positively to it and worked hard towards the establishment of a regional business organisation with Nagano.

The article concludes that the formation of PBEC, as well as PAFTAD, contributed to the initial efforts of building mutual trust between the two countries and helped them find common interests in Pacific economic cooperation. It can be thus asserted that one of the PBEC's main functions in the early years was to promote interaction among business people interested in regional economic cooperation and to inform governments of the importance of economic cooperation issues.

Nagano Shigeo and his ideas

Ideas which provide the intellectual base and rationale for new institutions emerge in many different ways, but there are always protagonists who are the driving force behind the creation of new institutional arrangements and policy directions. …

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