ASEAN + 3 or ASEAN + 6? for East Asia Summit

Update (Dec12) :
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:

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.



Anonymous said...

If instead of saying "US ploy (can I call it conspiracy) to contain China", you said it was "a neo-con ploy to contain China", then I would not object.

I don't think there is a unanimous intention, even among the entire Bush administration, in the US to contain China. There definitely is the intention of the PNAC contingent to not allow any power center that would rival the US to come in to existence.

{and this ploy to ensure a sole power center and disrupting/containing/destroying all potential rival power centers sounds a whole lot like the ruling philosophy of a certain group running a large Asian country.}

Sun Bin said...

thanks, you are right.
i would change the wording.

Anonymous said...

With the inclusion of Aussie, New Zealand, US and Russia in the future, it looks more and more like the Apec, why don't they just combine the two into one?

Sun Bin said...

i think APEC is too large to make it works. it is always easier to start small and add new members one by one.

if apec can become a free trade zone in a couple years. there is no need for the EAS at all. so i think this is a good step for the asians to reach something tangible.

in addition, the americas have their own NAFTA/etc. they are not interested in a trade pact. US, however, just want to step its foot it for "strategic reason", even though they probably are not very clear what kind of strategic reason it serves.

Anonymous said...

Furthermore the US already has a bilateral free trade agreement with Australia. And it has been pushing hard for a similar one with Thailand. Both of these push beyond the sort of agreement that would result from inside ASEAN, since the US is interested in opening markets that the existing members of ASEAN don't deem crucial. {like protection of US patents on big pharmaceutical companies in ASEAN, especially banning items like generic versions of anti-virals for AIDS}.

Anonymous said...

it wasnt too long ago that, following the lead of uncle sham, john howard declared australia also has the "right" to launch "premptory attack" on any countries in the region which is deemed to harbour "terrorists"
such hubris naturally provoked lots of outrage from the sea countries. not least from dr mahathir of malaysia ;-)

vow, so now they have signed a non aggression pact with asean in order to get in the east asian forum. i guess it means the end of
preemtory war doctrine eh?

why is uncle's deputy bending himself backward to get in the asean meeting?
why is uncle so keen to patrol in the malacca straits?
we know the answer to both questions dont we?

no wonder dr mahathir is again sounding the warning about us trojan horse in our midst,

Sun Bin said...


yes, US can sign them up one by one if it wants. these trade pacts are not exclusive.

it can also expand NAFTA over the other side of the pacific to make a true APEC, if it can convince the protectionists within US. there is really no reason to whine.

Anonymous said...

Hey, Sun Bin, you bigot ;o ;o, you've been drowned by a torrent from a spigot over on the New Allies thread at Curzon!
The tide must have carried you somewhere to Mr K's hometown deep in the Corn Belt...I can almost see the cobs sticking out of the ears!
Asean +6....more about that later. I am up to the neck (in floodwater? ;O) covering the event...

Anonymous said...

The really interesting story of this summit is that Wen Jiabao does not like his red batik shirt - he finds it too red.
The Korean Pm doesn't mind his green shirt, though his minders had earlier said he wouldn't like it.
Putin's bodyguards shredded his suit by accident. Dunno how.
And the Straits Times (Malaysia) today reported that the +3 leaders met up in an anteroom before a meeting and chatted about...Hallyu, Korean drama!Innocuous enough. They couldn't come to blows abt Yasukuni.
Japan has been defeated on the +6,for the time being. But has ``pledged'' $63 billion to forge closer Asean ties.
But, considering Prof Lim's article which spotlighted Japan's falling Asean investments, that is too little, too late perhaps, in contrast China's $370 bn trade with Asean.
Besides, it's only a `pledge' - what will Japan want in exchange from Asean.
Even the FTA agreement with Malaysia sounds a half-hearted attempt at promoting regionalism, but doesn't really offer anything.

Anonymous said...

sun bin,

fyi, i posted the following to the "new allies" thread in curson's site 48hrs. ago, still no sign of it, looks like your hospitality to let all comers have their say here isnt reciprocated in all those bigots' site, mind u , those are the ones who talk
the loudest about freedom of speech and all that jazz, typical yanks if u ask me, "do as what we say, not what we do"

latest evident http://joongangdaily.joins.com/200504/17/200504172206552209900090309031.html

indicates that sun bin is right, but kushibo, the self appointed Korean expert, is way off.....