Sunday, July 20, 2008

ASEAN and Japan

Japan has tended to be rather cool to Asian integration in the past. About two decades ago, there was considerable effort to initialize an Asian economic union but Japan's reticence was the major cause of the movement's downfall.

There have, though, been Japanese leaders who have recognized the value of the concept including former Prime Minister Takeo Fukuda back in 1977. Fukuda liked what he saw in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations or ASEAN and backed the idea of unity between Japan and the grouping of nations.

Just this year, Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda, the son of Takeo, mentioned important goals for Japan that mirrored the "Fukuda Doctrine" of his father.

Japan now backs integration movements that would include ASEAN plus Three, including Japan, China and South Korea; the Asian Community -- which includes ASEAN plus Three leaders and their counterparts from Australia, India and New Zealand, and smaller interregional trade relationships. In all cases, ASEAN will serve as the central connecting point.

And we've seen for the first time, the Japan International Cooperation Agency enter into a formal agreement with ASEAN to cooperate on meeting specific goals including creating an ASEAN hub by 2015, and the formation of an East Asian free trade area by 2020 or earlier.