東アジア共同体 経済連携の強化で環境整備を

The Yomiuri Shimbun(Sep. 30, 2009)
Economic cooperation path to community
東アジア共同体 経済連携の強化で環境整備を(9月30日付・読売社説)

Even talk of an "East Asian community" may be getting too far ahead of the reality of the situation.

It is important first to improve the environment for its creation and proceed with the substantiation of the concept through steady efforts to strengthen economic partnerships in the region.

The foreign ministers of Japan, China and South Korea, at their meeting in Shanghai on Monday, agreed to strengthen their cooperation to create an East Asian community.

Japanese Foreign Minister Katsuya Okada stressed the necessity of promoting regional economic partnerships and building cooperation in individual sectors, such as energy and environmental efforts, under the principle of "open regionalism." Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama, who puts an East Asian community at the center of his diplomatic strategies based on the spirit of yu-ai or "fraternity," expressed the same view in a speech at the United Nations during his visit to the United States last week.

"Open regionalism" is based on a concept of regional cooperation that does not exclude specific countries, including the United States. It has been a policy of the Japanese government since former Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi touted the creation of an East Asian community in 2002. The Hatoyama administration seems to be following in Koizumi's footsteps.


Motives questioned

Nevertheless, there still are some in the United States who wonder about Hatoyama's real intention. There is little doubt that such questions are linked to Hatoyama's recent op-ed piece in a U.S. newspaper that criticized U.S.-led globalization and touched on the issue of creating a common Asian currency.

It would be self-defeating for Japan to take on an active leadership role in promoting the concept of an East Asian community if it negatively influences the Japan-U.S. alliance. Hatoyama and Okada should assuage U.S. worries by sufficiently explaining the intent of the effort.

Discussing the idea of an East Asian community at a summit meeting with Chinese President Hu Jintao in New York last week, Hatoyama cited the example of energy cooperation between Germany and France leading to a wave of integration in Europe.

However, it is unreasonable to model an East Asian community after the European Union. East Asia is composed of various types of countries whose political frameworks differ from each other. Due to the threat of North Korean nuclear missile attacks and China's mounting military build-up, the security environment in East Asia is not as stable as that of Europe in the post-Cold War era.


First step

To eventually create an East Asian community, it is appropriate to begin by strengthening regional economic cooperation.

But among Japan, China and South Korea, discussion of free trade agreements and investment treaties have not made progress. South Korea has maintained a cautious stance on an FTA out of concern it might increase its trade deficit with Japan, while China also is hesitant about signing an investment treaty for fear of being forced to liberalize its investment regulations.

Japan's FTA negotiations with India and Australia also have stagnated. South Korea and India, which, along with China, has shown significant economic growth, signed an FTA in August. Japan's delayed start cannot be denied.

In October, a summit meeting among the leaders of Japan, China and South Korea and an East Asia Summit meeting are planned. Hatoyama and Okada should deepen discussions on strengthening economic cooperation in the region in a concrete manner.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Sept. 30, 2009)
(2009年9月30日01時08分 読売新聞)

by kiyoshimat | 2009-09-30 10:55 | 英字新聞

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