Monday, September 28, 2009

East Asian Community--Come Again, Japan!

I always get worried when new leaders debut their politics with what some might consider bombastic claims to practicalise regional integration. I use "bombastic" to explain away wild claims that might not be founded on reality. I cannot help but wonder whether every economic community has to be predicated on the model of the EU.

When, during the sidelines of the UN general assembly, Japanese Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama floated the idea of an East Asian community inspired by the European Union in his first meeting with Chinese President Hu Jintao, I believed it to be a great idea, but it is one that must be accompanied with caution.

Caution because just creating something that is modelled on the EU but divorces itself from the culture of East Asia might go to frustrate the conception thereof. Simply put, East Asia needs to continue doing a kind of cost-benefit analysis of what kind of imperative is best for its region--is it economic? is it fiscal? is it one based on security?

When I wrote about the East Asian Community in 2008, I made reference to the Economic Research Institute for ASEAN and East Asia (ERIA) that is keen to support the conception of any EAC. My personal opinion remains that a hybrid of ASEAN and the EU and others might be a good idea. A simple cut-and-paste job of the EU into Asia might prove to be counter-productive and seriously frustrate any desire at a critical and progressive outlook on regional integration for South-East Asia.

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