Australia farewells Obama, welcomes Asian Century
US President Obama and Russian President Medvedev will attend the sixth East Asia Summit in Bali this Saturday, November 19. This historic development will make the East Asia Summit one of the world’s most important leadership forums. It will also be another signal of a continuing global power shift that will make the 21st century the Asian Century.
US and Russian participation in the East Asia Summit represents an extraordinary achievement for an Asian integration process initiated by (originally 6, now 10) ASEAN countries during the Cold War. US military primacy will continue for at least for the first half of the 21st century, highlighting the importance for Australia of the ANZUS alliance.
President Obama will celebrate the 60th anniversary of ANZUS this morning in a speech to a joint sitting of the Australian Parliament. The ANZUS alliance protects Australia with US nuclear deterrence capability that is likely to remain an effective deterrent of military adventurism by a ‘rising’ China.
US nuclear deterrence is important to reinforce stable global security, but China’s asymmetric nuclear deterrence capabilities also raise the risk of an unacceptable degree of Mutually Assured Destruction in a US-China conflict, making the notions of military hegemony and major power conflict historical relics in the nuclear era.
The principal arenas of global major power competition in the 21st century will be economic, not military. Although it is the world’s largest single national economy, US economic primacy is rapidly approaching its “use by date”.
Asian dominance of economic power competition in the 21st century will make it the Asian Century. The most important economic integration development in the 21st century will not be the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) that was so much ballyhooed at the APEC summit in Hawaii hosted by President Obama earlier this week.
The TPP was started by four countries (Brunei, Chile, New Zealand and Singapore) and five others (Australia, South Korea, Malaysia, USA and Vietnam) agreed at the APEC summit to negotiate to join the TPP. The 1994 APEC Bogor Declaration set a target of free trade and investment between developed APEC countries by 2010 (which has not been met), and extending to developing APEC countries by 2020.
The table below shows that an APEC FTA would a huge FTA, but it would also be the very difficult to establish and maintain. That is why the TPP has emerged. The TPP and APEC are secondary prospects.
China, India, Japan and South Korea will focus on the main game, ASEAN-based integration processes, and Australia should too, despite Australia’s role in the origins of APEC. ASEAN+3 (China, Japan and South Korea) summits led to negotiations towards an East Asia Free Trade Agreement (EAFTA). ASEAN has concluded FTAs with each country, and China, Japan and South Korea are negotiating a trilateral FTA.
Japan initiated countries including Australia, India and New Zealand into the ASEAN+6 participants in the first 5 East Asia Summit (EAS) in 2005. Russia also attended the first EAS in 2005 as a guest of host country Malaysia, and left with economic and security cooperation agreements.
Japan also initiated consideration of a Comprehensive Economic Partnership in East Asia (CEPEA) at the second EAS. ASEAN has concluded FTAs with Australia, India and New Zealand. All ASEAN+6 countries are negotiating towards a CEPEA and the ASEAN+3 countries are negotiating towards an EAFTA.
In 1998, former Chinese Communist Chairman Deng Xiaoping reportedly told the then Indian Prime Minister, Rajiv Gandi that “The twenty-first century can only be the Asian century if India and China combine to make it so.”
The economic rise of China and India necessarily involves a relative decline in the economic power of the US, but the US will remain a major economic power long after it has been “passed” by China’s aggregate GDP, especially if the US focuses more effectively on international competitiveness. Aggregate GDP is a very crude measure of economic power, which gives no weight to the prospect of continuing US advantages in terms of accumulated wealth, capital markets, multinational corporations, and technological innovation.
However, Asian integration adds a dimension to prospective global economic power changes. The table shows that an ASEAN +6 or CEPEA combination already exceeds the US and EU economies in PPP terms. Russia already has an economic cooperation agreement with EAS members. The table indicates that a combination of a CEPEA+Russia FTA (32.5 per cent of GWP) would pose the US with a group that it would be difficult for the US to reject joining.
Politically, the expanded EAS+2 will include 6 democracies (Australia, India, Japan, New Zealand, South Korea and the US) and six semi-democracies (Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Russia) which together constitute a substantial political counterweight to the six autocracies (Brunei, Cambodia, China, Laos, Myanmar, and Vietnam).
ASEAN’s cooperative security objectives were embodied in the Treaty of Amity and Cooperation in Southeast Asia (TAC), which has become an important issue in ASEAN’s relations with non-ASEAN countries. It is a notable ASEAN achievement that China, India, Russia, South Korea and the USA have all acceded to the TAC.
The Obama administration decided to accede to the TAC in July 2009 and this was followed on November 15, 2009 by the first ASEAN-US Leaders Meeting, and a second in New York on 24 September 2010. The third ASEAN-US Leaders Meeting will take place on November 18, 2011 in Bali, along with bilateral meetings between Obama and the leaders of China, India, Indonesia, Thailand and the Philippines. The EAS agenda will include reinforcing a 2002 ASEAN Regional Forum agreement of China and the littoral members of ASEAN to peaceful resolution of their claims to the Spratleys and other Islands in the South China Sea.
The Asian region, including Australia, has much to gain from China and India ‘rising’ within a CEPEA (ASEAN+6) or EAS (ASEAN+8) context, with ‘capitalist peace’ based on interdependence and confidence building measures enhancing mutual interests in cooperative security. The ‘capitalist peace’ potential of Asian integration is demonstrated by the reconciliation at a bilateral summit between China and India in April 2005, which reflects their common relationships with the wider ASEAN-linked integration process as well as a decade of bilateral diplomacy.
Supporting the balanced regional influences of China, India, Japan, Korea, Russia and the US in this growing Asian integration process and reinforcing cooperative security has major strategic and economic importance for Australia and the region, reinforcing the prospects for a peaceful Asian Century.
Note: Table is reproduced from: David Lundberg, “Asian Integration Models, Australia and the US.” Refereed paper presented to the 18th Biennial Conference of the Asian Studies Association of Australia in Adelaide, 5-8th July 2010.
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