Badung (The Jakarta Post/ANN) - The fourth meeting of the East Asia Vision Group II was officially opened yesterday afternoon to redefine the multilateral cooperation vision among the 10 Asean countries and East Asian economy powerhouses Japan, South Korea and China.
"Over a decade has passed since the first batch of the East Asia Vision Group reported its recommendations to the leaders of the Asean+3 in 2001. We expect to review where the cooperation of these 10+3 countries is now heading for the future," Indonesia's eminent representative Jusuf Wanandi said prior to commencing the fourth meeting of the East Asia Vision Group II in Badung yesterday.
"We will report our meeting's latest recommendations to the seventh East Asia Summit in Phnom Penh this November," said Wanandi.
Among the group's most successful implementations of the recommendations in 2001, was the financial mechanism to prevent the reoccurrence of a monetary crisis like the one of 1997 by managing the regional short-term liquidity problems and facilitating the work of other international financial arrangements and organisations like the International Monetary Fund. The mechanism is known as the Chiang Mai Initiatives and takes the form of a multilateral currency swap arrangement among the 10 Asean countries and three East Asian nations Japan, China and South Korea.
Starting off as a series of bilateral swap arrangements, the initiative has developed multilaterally into being worth around US$240 billion in total. "It's been regarded as our most successful implementation, which we expect to further improve both in terms of value and management," said Wanandi, citing the urgency of not only looking at further cooperation in finance, trade and politics, but also aspects of society, culture, education, health, energy security, food security and environment.
Thailand's eminent representative Suthad Setboonsarng further suggested: "Previously in 2001, we were just out of the 1997 financial crisis, so our vision was financial mechanism and so forth. But looking forward, we have to look at the financial crisis in Europe, and the United States financial recovery as well."
He highlighted the fact that the whole Asia region was becoming a world leader in terms of economic size, and thus the region's role and responsibility had to be redefined.
"Eleven years ago nobody foresaw that China could be this big. Eleven years ago, nobody foresaw that this group of 13 countries could be world leaders in economy. Now, we are in a very different situation. Because we are big, what is our role and responsibility for the world's future?" Setboonsarng said.
"So we are trying to find peace in this process. Because if we allow every country to move at ease, the chance is there will be a lot of economic conflicts, which then turns into political conflicts. The question is how to come up with a kind of mechanism to work together peacefully, not only among ourselves internally, but among the 13 countries and the rest of the world," said Setboonsarng. He also pointed out that the East Asia Community would always be a very open region, as opposed to the European Union which was very inward-looking, with almost 70 per cent of trade among its member countries.
China's supporting expert, Wang Yuzhu, agreed with the idea of building a harmonious regional environment for all countries to grow.
"China believes that we should build close relations with our immediate neighbours, including the Asean countries, then evolve and expand. We may agree with being a power in East Asia, but we don't think we are already a power in the world, even in the Asia-Pacific region."
"Asian countries and European countries are totally different. While EU members have many similarities in terms of development, culture, history, and so on, we Asians are very diverse, but yet we are linked with the same target; we are chasing high standards, high speed prosperity. That means we should work together to build our regional market, to make a better environment for international investment, regional communication."
"We understand the fear among small countries of being dominated by the rising China. Our economic development should be inclusive to Asean countries, which means we will change our consumption and development model, so that we can import more things from other countries and export our investment to other countries. That process has already begun," Wang said reassuringly.