TOKYO (Via PLDT) - Japan and the 10-Member Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Yesterday Signed the Tokyo Declaration That Seeks to Create an East Asian Community and a Free Trade Zone by 2012
TOKYO (via PLDT) - Japan and the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) yesterday signed the Tokyo Declaration that seeks to create an East Asian community and a free trade zone by 2012.
xOn the final day of a two-day ASEAN-Japan special commemorative summit, Japan forged documents with the Southeast Asian leaders that pledged increased cooperation to strengthen economic partnership, possibly through free trade pacts, to pave the way for the common community modeled after the European Union.
The leaders also issued a joint action plan defining the direction of future cooperation between Japan and ASEAN on the reduction of the enormous gap between rich and poor nations.
The action plan covers cooperation to crack down on international security problems such as human trafficking and terrorism, battle against drugs and piracy, and enhance the regional financial system through the creation of Asian bond markets.
The two-day summit, the ASEAN leaders' first-ever get-together hosted by a non-member country, is widely seen as an effort by Japan to defend its regional track record and regain its initiatives in encouraging the integration of East Asia and a regrouping of ASEAN and the countries of Northeast Asia.
In a bid to catch up with China and India in exerting regional influence, Japan has also agreed to launch free trade talks with the Philippines, Malaysia and Thailand early in 2004 on the sidelines of a special summit.
Tokyo hoped the deals could be sealed by the start of 2005 when it wants to start talks on an ASEAN-wide pact.
Japan and ASEAN aim to form a free trade zone possibly by 2012.
Fair, open trade
President Arroyo assured that her government will negotiate for fair and open trade deals with Japan once it starts its government-level negotiations next month.
"We have to make sure that we are competitive industry by industry. When we see that an industry is going to suffer from the pace, we stand back and review," she said.
"What we have to weigh is that we have to make sure that on the balance, we gain," she said.
Arroyo hailed yesterday the trade agreement between Manila and Tokyo as an "historic opportunity that will benefit both nations."
"The agreement is on track and will be based on what we can do to complement our respective economies, not compete. As such, I envision very few obstacles," she said at the closing session of the summit.
Arroyo said the joint declaration and framework for an ASEAN-Japan comprehensive economic partnership embodies such spirit of mutual cooperation and support.
She said Japan's proposed free trade pact with ASEAN should bolster the economic progress of all concerned member-states.
"I am always favorably disposed to any alignments that aid economic growth and political stability, but it must be done within the dynamics of ASEAN and complement what we have achieved, not undermine it, in any way," she said.
Arroyo expressed hope Japan would extend to ASEAN the wisdom, experience and economic opportunity it has extended to the Philippines over the years.
"It is an open and friendly relationship, not hamstrung by geo-politics, but a genuine concern for economic growth and political stability," she said.
Japan also joined the Treaty of Amity and Cooperation (TAC) in Southeast Asia, a 1976 non-aggression pact that China and India agreed to sign in October. It has resisted ASEAN pressure to sign up till now, citing its bilateral security arrangement with the United States dating from 1951.
To date, Japan has a free trade pact with ASEAN member Singapore, which took effect last November but offers little in the way of competition for Japan's heavily protected farming sector.
The other ASEAN members are Brunei, Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam, Indonesia and Myanmar. …