Chapter I.
General Overview- The International Community and Japan's Foreign Policy in 1996

C. Regional Cooperation in the Asia-Pacific Region

1. Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC)

a) Significance of the APEC Meetings in the Philippines

APEC, a framework for regional cooperation, comprises 18 economies with diverse history, language, culture and social and economic systems, all of which are at different stages of development. This framework is intended to maintain the dynamism of economic development in the Asia-Pacific region by encouraging voluntary liberalization of trade and investment, and by promoting wide-ranging economic and technical cooperation. In order to promote liberalization of trade and investment and encourage economic and technical cooperation by taking advantage of the diversity as well as the voluntary nature of APEC, the Eighth Ministerial Meeting was held in Manila (22-23 November), followed by the Fourth Informal Economic Leaders Meeting in Subic (25 November).

The first Informal Economic Leaders Meeting, held in 1993, successfully proclaimed the spirit of the Asia-Pacific community to be based on a shared vision of achieving stability, security and prosperity, which was a major turning point for APEC. This concept was endorsed in the Bogor Declaration of 1994, which addressed the clear goal of free and open trade and investment in the Asia-Pacific no later than 2010/2020, alongside trade and investment facilitation and the promotion of economic and technical cooperation. In 1995, the Osaka APEC, which was chaired by Japan, laid down policies to govern the specific endeavors that will be undertaken in the future to implement these goals.

The 1996 Philippines APEC could well be considered as marking the beginning of implementation of the APEC liberalization process. In line with the policies set forth in Osaka, APEC members formulated their own Individual Action Plans to outline the specific steps they intend to take to achieve liberalization and the Comprehensive Action Plan to be carried out by all member economies principally through various APEC fora.

The Philippines Meetings produced other positive outcomes as well. Firstly, economic and technical cooperation, which had initially been the key item in the APEC agenda but had tended to take a back seat to liberalization, reappeared in the spotlight. Secondly, an interim conclusion was reached regarding issues related to APEC membership.

b) The Achievements of the Philippines APEC Meetings

i) Progress Toward the Goals of Free and Open Trade and Investment

A clear indicator for the start of the liberalization process in APEC is the Manila Action Plan for APEC (MAPA) adopted in the Ministerial Meeting. The Individual Action Plan (IAP) of each member economy and the Collective Action Plan (CAP) constitute the core of the MAPA, which provides a comprehensive list of the concrete actions to be taken in the 15 areas in Part One (liberalization and facilitation of trade and investment) of the Osaka Action Agenda. For instance, Japan's IAP includes a comprehensive list of all the measures that are regarded as currently feasible, with a focus on deregulation, standards and conformance, investment and mobility of businesspeople.

Each member's action plan specifies its liberalization measures on a field-by-field basis, classified into short-, medium- and long-term programs. Each IAP is prefaced by a brief description of the economy's liberalization programs. The submission of IAPs by all 18 different economies in the Asia-Pacific was an epoch-making event. In addition, the publication of these IAPs has improved the transparency and predictability of the APEC liberalization process for economies outside the region and the business sector. Also, with the opportunity to compare the progress among members toward the liberalization goals set for 2010/2020, the publication of these IAPs will serve to apply peer pressure among APEC members.

The implementation of these IAPs commenced in January 1997, and the progress of their implementation will be subject to continuous annual revision though consultation among and review by member economies. While it was a major achievement that all 18 members submitted their IAPs promptly in 1996, the first year of implementation, it is necessary to implement and improve the IAPs steadily toward liberalization. Although it is assumed that liberalization in APEC is progress based on "concerted unilateral actions by each member economy," APEC members will have to show even greater initiative and effort in the future for tangible achievements in liberalization.

Furthermore, based on the view that benefits from APEC liberalization should be clearly visible to the private sector, the APEC Business Advisory Council (ABAC) was established, and submitted a report with 10 main recommendations.

ii) Reevaluation of Economic and Technical Cooperation

The framework of economic and technical cooperation in APEC, a key focus of APEC since its inception, goes beyond the traditional donor-recipient relationship; it is intended to eliminate economic disparity within the region through the principle of mutual assistance and voluntarism. It has tended to be overshadowed in recent years by an emphasis on liberalization, but a distinctive achievement of APEC in 1996 was the fact that economic and technical cooperation was again put in the spotlight with the initiative of the Philippines, the chair of the meeting in 1996. In terms of concrete achievements, the ministers issued the Declaration on an APEC Framework for Strengthening Economic Cooperation and Development, in which a common understanding was reached regarding targets and guidelines; the nature of economic and technical cooperation; and the need for the identification of high-priority themes.

iii) Adoption of the Leaders' Declaration and Japan's Initiative

At the Informal Economic Leaders Meeting in Subic, the leaders of the 18 APEC members gathered to exchange views on the following four themes: (1) formation of the Asia-Pacific community; (2) globalization; (3) maintaining the dynamism of the APEC process; and (4) infrastructure development. They adopted the statement entitled "APEC Economic Leaders' Declaration: From Vision to Action." Prime Minister Hashimoto put forward the following four proposals: (1) in light of the need to promote the formation of an Asia-Pacific community, it will be necessary to build up telecommunications infrastructure, and APEC should make active use of the Asia-Pacific Information Infrastructure (APII) Technology Center (Kobe); (2) to protect the environment of the Pacific Ocean, Japan's earth-survey satellites should be used throughout the APEC region, and joint efforts such as the protection of coral reefs should be made; (3) to respond to the region's immense demand for infrastructure, cooperation should be established among the export credit agencies in the region, and an infrastructure information network should be built; and (4) APEC should address social and economic issues that transcend national borders, such as the need to interdict the illegal trade of drugs and guns.

iv) Handling Membership Issues

The Philippines APEC Meetings resolved the question of APEC membership policy, an issue which has a direct bearing upon the nature of APEC itself. At the Ministerial Meeting, ministers agreed unanimously that: (1) in 1996 the moratorium should not be extended; (2) in 1997 the criteria for evaluating applications for membership should be adopted after being refined and updated; (3) in 1998 new members should be announced, based on the newly adopted criteria; and (4) in 1999 new members should be admitted. At present, 11 economies have expressed a desire to join APEC, and their requests will be considered hereafter.

2. The ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF)

The ASEAN Regional Forum was established in 1994 as a forum for dialogue at which foreign ministers from Asia-Pacific countries, including those of the People's Republic of China and the Russian Federation, gather under one roof to exchange views on political and security issues in the region. The Third Ministerial Meeting was held in 1996. The scope of ARF activities is expanding, and steady progress is being achieved.

At the Second ARF Meeting in 1995, the participants agreed that the following three-step evolutionary approach should be taken toward achievement of ARF objectives: (1) promotion of confidence-building; (2) development of preventative diplomacy; and (3) elaboration of approaches to conflicts. The participants agreed that emphasis should be put on confidence-building and holding various working-level meetings to discuss specific cooperative measures.

Several working-level meetings attended by diplomatic and defense officials were held from January through April to discuss confidence-building; UN Peace-keeping Operations; and search and rescue coordination and cooperation. Proposals for specific cooperative measures were made in each of these areas. In addition to facilitating confidence-building among experts from different countries, these meetings also provide opportunities to engage in concrete discussions concerning future ARF activities from an expert's perspective, and are thus a very significant part of the ARF process.

The Third Ministerial Meeting in July was the venue for an extremely frank and vigorous exchange of views concerning the Korean Peninsula, the South China Sea, non-proliferation of weapons, and a host of other issues related to the maintenance of regional security. In addition, proposals on specific measures in working-level meetings received ministerial-level approval and support, and as a result it was agreed to promote measures such as information-sharing on security dialogue; submission of defense policy statements on a voluntary basis; exchange among defense staff colleges and information exchange on notification of military exercises and observer participation in these exercises. Also, in view of the usefulness of working-level meetings, participants agreed to continue these activities and decided to hold a meeting on disaster relief.

Note : At the Third ARF Meeting, participants decided to continue or to newly establish the following intergovernmental meetings:

  • Confidence-Building Measures (co-hosted by China and the Philippines)
  • Disaster Relief (co-hosted by New Zealand and Thailand)
  • Search and Rescue (SAR) Coordination and Cooperation (co-hosted by the United States and Singapore)
  • PKO (co-hosted by Canada and Malaysia)

In the future, the measures thus decided must be properly implemented in order to consolidate the ARF's base of activities and to enhance its credibility as a valid forum for dialogue and cooperation on Asia-Pacific security. In light of the diversity in the Asia-Pacific region, security cooperation in this region is expected to make incremental progress, and continued efforts from all countries will be needed for the achievement of long-term regional stability.

The building of confidence and trust among the nations of the Asia-Pacific region and improvement of the regional security environment are extremely important to ensuring Japan's own security and prosperity. Japan has been contributing actively to this process all along, as evidenced by co-hosting with Indonesia the Inter-Sessional Support Group meetings on Confidence-Building Measures in 1996, and the efforts to promote the progress of ARF must continue.

3. Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM)

1996 was a landmark year not only within the Asia-Pacific region, but also with respect to relations between Asia and other regions. In March, heads of state and government from 25 nations in Asia and Europe, plus the President of the European Commission, gathered at the Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM) in Bangkok, Thailand. In addition to its importance as an attempt to strengthen ties between Asia and Europe, which have until now been the relatively weak link in the triangle of Asia-Europe-North American relations, ASEM also provided participants with a forum at which to announce their commitment to Asia-Europe cooperation in supporting the establishment of a new world order for the post-Cold War period.

The key aims of ASEM are to enhance the mutual understanding and benefit of Asia and Europe, and to contribute to the establishment of a new world order through dialogue and cooperation. To these ends, the strengthening of dialogue and cooperation between these two regions on political, economic, cultural and global issues, as well as a wide range of other issues, was included in the Chairman's Statement of the March Meeting. This Chairman's Statement also included specific follow-up measures put forward on different nations' initiatives in many different fields. Japan, represented by Prime Minister Hashimoto, contributed to the success of the meeting by proposing intellectual exchange between Asia and Europe, youth exchange programs of a mini "Davos-type," objective studies on the economic synergy between Asia and Europe, a business conference, an Economic Ministers' Meeting, cooperation among customs authorities in Asia and Europe, etc., as the foundation for interregional cooperation.

Prior to the March Summit, a meeting for foreign ministers from the Asian nations participating in ASEM was held in January in Phuket, Thailand. Japan was represented by Foreign Minister Ikeda. Attended by the foreign ministers of Japan, China, the Republic of Korea and the seven members of ASEAN, this meeting was also significant in fostering dialogue and cooperation within Asia in preparation for promoting Asia-Europe cooperation. ASEM is not a forum for negotiations between regions, but a forum for dialogue among each member country as an individual entity. Such flexibility is an important feature of ASEM.

Considering that many Asian countries were once European colonies, the fact that Asia and Europe now meet as equals at ASEM to promote dialogue and cooperation is a sign, rich in historic symbolism, of how far Asia has advanced. With the approach of the Second Asia-Europe Meeting in 1998 (London) and the Third Asia-Europe Meeting in 2000 (Republic of Korea), interregional relations must be strengthened through steady implementation of follow-up measures. It is important for Japan to continue to play a constructive role in this process.

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