1. Related, FT article
2. Kuala Lumpur Declaration on the ASEAN Plus Three Summit (Full Text)
3. Francis Fukuyama's essay in WSJ (May 2005) (pdf)
4. an old essay by Waseda University Professor Lim Hua Seng agrees with me
5. Jeffrey Robertson of Australia (pdf) examines the benefit of ASEAN+1/3/5, and why Asia FTA has been resisted by Japan and US, until China joined and support the ASEAN cause.
6. Japan Times essay on the "China-Japan Feud"; my take is that ASEAN+1 will go ahead regardless and Japan could end up as the loser.
Update (Dec12) :
7. Asian Leaders Hold Summit Without U.S. Presence - Washington Post -"The whole process is open," said Cui Tiankai, who heads the Asian affairs department at the Chinese Foreign Ministry. "Now we have 16 countries, but next year we could have 17 or 18. For example, we are aware of the interest expressed by the United States government."..."That's the new way of China's diplomacy these days," Natalegawa said. "They are very flexible."
8. Beijing opposes exclusive East Asia bloc - UPI - " Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao told leaders at the Association of Southeast Asian Nations forum in Kuala Lumpur that China does not seek regional leadership. He also "made it clear that China is opposed to building any self-enclosed or exclusive bloc in the East Asia region," the official Xinhua news agency reported. "
Update (Dec13) :
9. Aso's speech: "Asian Strategy As I See It:Japan as the "Thought Leader" of Asia" Read for youeself. IMO he really needs to hire a speech writer and a P.R. specialist.
10. Andy Mukherji is right that an Asian FTA will be hard to materialize, if taking the ASEAN+6 path. But we have more options, we can start with ASEAN 6 + China 1. Then for Korea, Japan/etc to join one by one.
There has been report that Japan opposes to the ASEAN+3 solution toward an East Asia trade pact. It proposed ASEAN+6 instead, fearing it would be "led by China". This is part of a ploy (can i call it conspiracy?) from the neo-con in US to contain China, when the Bush administration felt bitter about being left out in an Asian conference(*).
There are 10 nations in ASEAN:
- Founding members (August 8, 1967): Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand
- States that joined later: Brunei (1984), Vietnam (1995), Laos, Myanmar (1997), Cambodia (1999)
The 10 nations have already achieved significant progress in reaching a free trade pact. But there is no catalyst to push for it. Adding the NE Asia 3 may be the catalyst (or anchor) that is long needed. To include 3 more nations into the pact 3x10+3(among the NEA 3)=33 negotiations are required.
To include 6 more nations 6x10 + 6*5/2!= 75 more negotiation is needed. Significant delay is expected. ASEAN + 6 proposal is dragging the feet of an East Asian trade pact. Nothing gets done if you are too ambitious. This is why APEC fails to achieve anything substantial.
Therefore, ASEAN+3 is a more practical solution to reach a trade pact. The next 3 countries (India, Australia, NZ) can always join later. By prioritizing free trade for ASEAN+3 it does not mean excluding the next 3. On the contrary, it speeds up future inclusion of the next 3. In fact, by proceeding in gradualism, one also allows for other neighboring countries, such as Mongolia, Sri Lanka, Bangaldesh, Maldives, East Timor and PNG, to join once ASEAN+3 is established, similar to how the expansion of EU has been accomplished.
China will perhaps be the anchor of ASEAN+3. But China will not control the whole of East Asia as a result. ASEAN combines has 600M people. By irrationally opposing a practical solution (of ASEAN+3), Japan (and US) is hurting the economic interests of everybody in the region, including Japan itself.
Hopefully the ASEAN nations, with the experiences gathered in past negotiation, realize this. If Japan does not like it, it can opt out. ASEAN+2 will only need 21 new negotiations and it would be a much easier task to accomplish. Not having Japan in the FTA will be a minus for all, but it can always join the Asia family when it decides it wants to. But ASEAN+2 is still better than no trade pact at all.
Note(*): Apparently geography has not been taught well in US schools. USA belongs to the North America continent, not the Asia continent. Contrary to what the diplomats in US want to believe, there has never been any conscious effort in leaving US out in this East Asian Summit. In fact, ASEAN has said USA could join if it signs the Treaty of Amity and Cooperation, like Australia did. Russia has signed, and may get its invitation ticket to the next meeting.