Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Clinton Gets Asian Economic Summit, but Only at a Price

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Clinton Gets Asian Economic Summit, but Only at a Price

Article excerpt

PRESIDENT Clinton has won a partial victory in his attempt to reassert US influence in East Asia.

A Clinton proposal for an economic summit of 15 Asian-Pacific nations in Seattle this November was widely accepted by the region's foreign ministers during a July 24-28 meeting in Singapore.

But Malaysia, Taiwan, Hong Kong, and perhaps one or two other nations may not attend the summit for reasons that reflect political divisions in the region. And the US had to pay a price for taking the bold step of trying to host the first summit of trans-Pacific leaders.

The US had to drop any opposition to the formation of an East Asia-only grouping of nations, known as the East Asia Economic Caucus (EAEC). This group, first proposed in 1991 by the anti-Western prime minister of Malaysia, Mahathir Mohamad, would exclude the United States, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand. In the past, US officials have warned that such a group might lead to a regional economic bloc dominated by Japan.

Over the weekend, the EAEC was formally set up to operate within the context of two other regional organizations, rather than as an independent body. This compromise was worked out between Malaysia and Indonesia and may ease US concerns that it might be cut out of East Asian dialogue on economic issues.

"Our concern has been greatly eased by the decision {to place} the EAEC within the structure of APEC," said US Secretary of State Warren Christopher referring to the 15-nation grouping known as Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation, which includes the US. But Mr. Christopher said he was puzzled about how the new EAEC would work.

In addition to being under APEC, the EAEC will also receive "support and direction" from the economic ministers of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). Asian divisions

Made up of the Philippines, Singapore, Brunei, Thailand, Malaysia, and Singapore, ASEAN has been the most organized voice in Asia for nearly two decades. ASEAN ministers will meet in October to set up EAEC's framework. Japan, which was reluctant to support the new group for fear of offending Washington, is expected to join it, as might China. …

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