The Hon Stephen Smith MP
AUSTRALIAN MINISTER FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRShttp://www.foreignminister.gov.au/speeches/2009/091203_asia-pac.html
Speech, (Check Against Delivery)
3 December 2009, Sydney,
Asia Pacific: Toward a 21st Century CommunityIntroduction
Thank you Dick [Woolcott], for that introduction.
Conference Co-Chairs Dr Michael Wesley and Madame Ninh.
Dr Han Seung-soo, former Prime Minister of the Republic of Korea.
Fidel Ramos, former President of the Philippines and Chairman of the Boao Forum for Asia.
Sir Rabbie Namaliu, former Prime Minister of Papua New Guinea.
Representatives of the diplomatic corps.
Ladies and gentlemen.
Welcome to Sydney and to Australia.
I thank you for travelling here to participate in this Conference, The Asia-Pacific: A Community for the 21st Century.
The Asia-Pacific Century
This is the century of the Asia-Pacific.
Economic, political, military and strategic influence is moving to the Asia-Pacific, to our part of the world.
In this century, the Asia-Pacific will become the world’s centre of gravity.
The rise of China is a defining element of Asia’s growing influence, but it is not the only or whole story.
Everyone sees the rise of China but the rise of India is still under-appreciated, as is the rise of the ASEAN economies combined.
The great individual potential of Indonesia and the enduring economic strengths of Japan and South Korea must also be acknowledged.
On average, our region’s economic growth has been outpacing other regions for many years. APEC’s 21 member economies represent approximately half the world’s GDP and trade.
The ongoing shift in influence is, however, not just about economics or demographics.
Economic power underpins military modernisation. It contributes to political and strategic weight.
The Asia-Pacific is home to the world’s five largest militaries – the United States, Russia, China, India, and North Korea.
The implications of this historic shift continue to unfold. No one can say with certainty what the new international or regional order will look like or when it might crystallise.
Some people seem implicitly to assume that the economic and strategic influence of the United States, the world’s largest economy and superpower, will somehow be eclipsed overnight.
The United States, which has underwritten stability in the Asia- Pacific for the last half-century, will continue to be the single most powerful and important strategic actor here for the foreseeable future, both in its own right and through its network of alliances and security relationships.
Our region has prospered because of the foundations laid down by this stability.
Australia believes the ongoing engagement of the United States in the Asia Pacific is absolutely essential to our region's interests.
The relative resilience of our region amid the global economic crisis has also brought home to others that our region is and will be crucial to global economic stability and growth.
This was one of the factors behind the emergence this year of the G20 as the premier forum for global economic cooperation.
Prior to the financial crisis, only the United States, Canada and Japan, of the Asia-Pacific countries, were members of the principal global economic institution, the G7 of industrialised economies.
Ten countries of the Asia-Pacific region are in the G20: Australia, Canada, China, India, Indonesia, Japan, Mexico, Russia, South Korea, and the United States of America.
Australia has high ambitions for the G20 and our region’s influence in it.
It can become a political driver of stronger global cooperation and governance, responding to the range of global challenges that will confront us in this the Asia-Pacific century.
Present and Future Challenges
With the rise of the Asia-Pacific region comes difficult challenges.
Some have been with us for years. Others are more recent.
Terrorist and criminal networks will continue to plot their way across national boundaries and exploit vulnerabilities.
Some of our countries have recently endured terrible terrorist attacks.
The hotel bombings in Jakarta in July, and the Mumbai attacks a year ago, were both a potent reminder that terrorism still poses a serious threat in our region, that it respects no jurisdiction, and that to fight it, regional efforts remain crucial.
People smugglers continue to pose a significant challenge to our region, undermining the integrity of immigration systems and circumventing the processes designed to protect national security and interests.
The scale of this challenge is daunting. At the end of 2008, there were around 42 million forcibly displaced people worldwide, including 10 million refugees. One third of these are in the Asia and Pacific region.
As well, our region contains a number of latent security problems, some of which are the leftovers of past conflicts – for example on the Korean Peninsula – and others which stem from past grievances and unresolved territorial disputes.
History shows that the process of national development can accentuate such fault lines and create difficulties between nation states as they strive to maximise their interests.
The region, however, is not complacent. We recognise the potential for tension, miscalculation and even conflict.
We want to make the current peace more durable, to build habits of dialogue which will help us all withstand and resolve serious tensions when they arise.
In addition to security challenges, there are substantial economic challenges ahead.
Regional integration has underwritten the economic success of our region.
We have prospered by opening the door to trade and investment. We have weathered the global economic crisis better than other regions.
But our region cannot rest on its laurels or its oars.
We need to make a meaningful long term response to the global economic crisis, by entrenching good economic policy and structural reform.
Making global and regional institutions – the G20, APEC, the EAS – work together to this end will not only be good for these organisations but for the Asia-Pacific region, and for the global economy.
Finance and Economic Ministers have a greater role to play in our region’s architecture as regional economic integration work focuses increasingly on regulatory issues.
Our region is also prone to natural disasters on a tragic scale.
Recent natural disasters – the earthquake in Sumatra, Typhoon Ketsana in the Philippines and beyond, and the tsunami in Samoa and Tonga – have starkly reminded us that the countries adversely affected will often need significant and rapid assistance to alleviate human suffering and to begin the process of recovery and reconstruction.
They also show that very often these natural disasters are more than any one individual country – no matter how large – can cope with or deal with.
Disasters have a tragic human cost, but also an economic cost. Our region must be better prepared for disasters, and better able to respond quickly and effectively when required.
Pandemic disease, sadly a familiar threat to the health of our communities, will also continue to confront us.
Increased mobility, due to affordable air travel and increasing rural to urban migration in our region, means that disease spreads with greater ease and quickly.
Shutting borders to keep out disease would be catastrophic in a region where prosperity has been built on free and open trade.
None of these challenges can be addressed or solved by any one nation. They can only be addressed by nations acting together regionally and internationally.
Lessons from the Region
In our own region, the achievements secured through cooperation are clear.
The founders of ASEAN chose cooperation rather than conflict or competition.
The stability, prosperity and regional cooperation ASEAN has fostered since its establishment are a singular achievement.
ASEAN continues to accelerate economic growth, social progress and cultural development, and to promote peace and stability in our region.
From it has grown the ASEAN Regional Forum, a forum of 27 participants, our region’s primary multilateral security forum, which first met in 1994 and is gradually developing its role in preventive diplomacy.
The ‘ASEAN plus 3’ followed in 1997, and ASEAN plus 6, the East Asia Summit, in 2005.
The East Asia Summit is an increasingly productive forum of key regional countries with the potential to play a significant role in building a strong East Asian community.
APEC now also helps define our region. During the 20 years since its first Ministerial meeting of 12 Ministers, it has become vital to building consensus around open markets, trade and investment.
APEC’s practical effects are many. Average tariffs within APEC fell from 17 per cent in 1989 to around 5 per cent in 2008.
APEC has made doing business cheaper and easier by removing or streamlining processes that inhibit the movement of goods, services and business people across borders.
It has made our region more prosperous, through achieving substantially free and open trade between the developed economies of APEC.
Our region has also learned to address particular challenges through more specialised cooperation. The Bali Process on People Smuggling, Human Trafficking and Transnational Crime is an example of such a mechanism.
Asia Pacific community
As valuable and as central as all of the existing organisations and regional groupings I've mentioned continue to be, we need to closely examine the regional architecture and consider how it might best be developed to serve our region's interests into the first quarter of this century and beyond.
The Asia Pacific will be the new power centre, but as a region we need to be able to manage our issues successfully.
It is for this reason that Australia has asked whether the regional architecture is right to enable all the key Asia Pacific players to have a conversation in the same room at the same time, both about trade and investment, but also about peace, stability and security.
APEC and ASEAN will have central roles to play into the future.
But we have to recognise the gaps that exist in our regional architecture and think about how we might address them.
None of the groupings in the current architecture is comprehensive in membership, scope or purpose.
APEC brings together a broad range of Asia-Pacific countries but India’s absence means that it does not include all the key players relevant to the region’s economic prospects and future security.
Likewise, the East Asia Summit is an increasingly productive forum of key regional countries with the potential to play a significant role in building a strong East Asian community. The absence of the 14 United States however – a critical contributor to regional security – limits the EAS.
There is as yet no leaders-level meeting where all of the key regional leaders can gather to discuss the full array of both trade and investment issues as well as political, security and strategic issues confronting our region.
An Asia-Pacific community would bring together all major regional countries in a single forum at Leaders' level with a view to enhancing cooperation on economic, political, security and strategic issues.
Such a community could encourage further economic and financial integration.
It could foster a culture of deeper collaboration and transparency in security matters.
It could drive cooperation on the range of transnational challenges.
It is not about supplanting or diminishing the roles of existing regional groupings, especially the centrality of ASEAN.
This community concept might emerge from the existing architecture, just as the ARF and the EAS have emerged from ASEAN itself.
No one envisaged the existing ASEAN related architecture when ASEAN started in 1967 as a group of five countries.
Australia has no prescriptive idea about the form of this community, but we do strongly believe a discussion about these issues is crucial.
It was in June last year that Prime Minister Rudd started the regional conversation about an Asia Pacific community.
There is now a growing appetite for this discussion in the region. This has been driven by a number of developments.
First, in advancing the concept of an East Asia Community this year, Prime Minister Hatoyama of Japan has contributed to interest in the development of our region’s architecture.
Second, this year was the 20th anniversary of the founding of APEC.
The APEC meeting in Singapore last month provided a good opportunity to reflect on APEC’s development, its economic achievements, its ongoing place in the region’s architecture and how it can continue to deliver outcomes for its member economies.
Third, the emergence of the G20 represents the most significant shift in global governance in decades.
The prominence of Asia-Pacific countries within the G20 means that we will increasingly look within the region for leadership on the great international challenges, both to build consensus towards global outcomes and to provide reinforcement for those outcomes.
Each of these developments has helped to bring a focus on the development this century of our region’s architecture, and how it should respond to meet future challenges.
Many of you, I know, are personally committed to building on the Asia-Pacific region’s strong tradition of cooperation. You have considerable experience of doing so.
Dick Woolcott, who has consulted many of you during the last year, has reported the great interest within our region in the Asia Pacific community initiative.
I have personally discussed the Asia Pacific community initiative in discussions with many counterparts in our region and beyond during the past 18 months.
I am confident that, through this conference, you will make a very positive and productive contribution to this discussion.