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Asian leaders pitch rival blocs to boost global clout

Asian leaders heard competing plans from Australia and Japan for a massive EU-style community covering half the world’s population as they wrapped up their annual summit on Sunday.

The proposals at the meeting in Thailand come as the fractious region seeks to reduce its dependence on the United States and boost its global clout after recovering from the financial crisis more quickly than the West. “The old growth model where, simply put, we have still to rely on consumption in the West for goods and services produced here, we feel will no longer serve us,” Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva said.

Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd presented his counterparts with his vision for an Asia-Pacific Community, possibly by 2020, while Japanese leader Yukio Hatoyama pushed his rival plan for an East Asian Community. Rudd’s scheme includes the direct involvement of the United States and measures on disaster management and climate change. Hatoyama’s proposal is more flexible and focused on economic cooperation.

Abhisit said leaders at the resort of Hua Hin, which grouped the 10 members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), China, Japan, South Korea, India, Australia and New Zealand, “listened carefully and attentively” to the plans. “There will be an ongoing process to flesh out those concepts,” Abhisit said in his closing remarks, adding that there would be a meeting in Australia in December to discuss Rudd’s idea.

Rudd said the region showed an “openness to a discussion about how we evolve our regional architecture into the future.” He said he had suggested a possible target of 2020. The Japanese premier set no time limit but has urged East Asian nations to integrate and aspire to “lead the world”. Leaders signed pacts Sunday on boosting integration and cooperating on global warming and tackling natural disasters. They also said in a statement that they should find “co-ordinated positions” ahead of meetings like the G20.

via Asian leaders pitch rival blocs to boost global clout.

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