Symposium for Intellectuals from East Asia and Latin America
February 21, Tokyo
A symposium for intellectuals from East Asia and Latin America (SIEALA) was held in Tokyo on February 20 and 21 with the participation of intellectuals of the East Asia / Latin America regions from China, Indonesia, Singapore, Thailand, the Republic of Korea, Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia and Mexico (participants list attached). Japan chaired the symposium and played the role of coordinator.
The symposium was an international brain storming exercise, with a view to creating an innovative framework for future cooperation between East Asia and Latin America in the context of EALAF. With the hope that the results of the discussion will offer new ideas on the framework dialogue in the EALAF, the participants agreed to presenting this summary to the upcoming first Foreign Ministers' meeting which will be held on March 29 and 30 in Santiago de Chile and herald the beginning of a new phase of EALAF.
The participants agreed that, in all frankness, the EALAF process is still at its infant stage and requires careful nurturing so that it can hopefully serve in the near future as a catalyst for mutually beneficial cooperation between Asia and Latin America. The following are the major points that the participants discussed in two-days symposium with this hope in mind.
1. Dawn for Substantial Relationship
The participants came to the common understanding that, although the interactions between East Asia and Latin America started long before the beginning of the 20th century, an organic link has been virtually non-existent between the two regions. Indeed, the relationship has been sometimes described as a "missing link." Their ties have been less than what we can expect in light of their potentials as two growing centers of the world.
There lies broad room for cooperation for the two regions endowed with a large population and rich cultural diversities. In order to overcome the deficiency in the past, the participants believe that the both regions should strengthen their efforts to know each other in parallel with their efforts to expand the mutual interaction. One possible way to deepen mutual understanding is to share experiences and learn from each other with regard to the common challenges that we face in the context of the rapidly progressing globalization.
In coping with those challenges, countries in both regions are expected to take the joint initiative to create and consolidate a new global norms and institutions for the benefit of the international community. We face the dawn for developing substantial relationship between East Asia and Latin America.
2. Arguments Raised in SIELA
As globalization is deepening in recent decades, the significance of the "national borders" has been getting smaller. While people have been benefiting from the process, a number of new challenges have consequently emerged and wait to be addressed by the international community. The participants in the symposium shared this understanding and explored the challenges in the political, social, cultural and economic fields that they regard as important for sharing experiences through intensified intellectual interaction.
(1) Political, Social and Cultural Issues
Although economic ties have been most noticeable between East Asia and Latin America, mutual understanding in the non-economic fields is also indispensable to lay a solid basis for deeper interaction between the two regions.
In the political field, several participants touched upon the problem of governance including the transparency in the policymaking process, civilian control over the military, decentralization, the general loss of legitimacy of the traditional political institutions and the role of civil society.
Many participants agreed that the theme of social issues is one of the most important and urgent areas to be addressed. The process of globalization is contributing to widening the gap between the winners and losers in the market. Although we are not yet sure about the long-term impact of globalization, we face, at least for the short run, the serious problem of poverty, unemployment and the weakening of the social welfare programs. The same social dislocation, together with the development of the transportation and communication technologies, has precipitated indirectly the spread of illicit drug trafficking and other crimes. Therefore, it is a common challenge for everyone in the two regions to consider how we reform the social security system under tight budget limitations, which is more appropriate however universal social welfare programs or more targeted social safety nets, and how we foster people's empowerment.
The necessity to examine the issues of environment, climate-related natural disasters, infectious decease was also mentioned.
The participants shared the point that the mutual understanding through cultural exchanges is highly important as the first step for deepening cooperative relations. The idea of establishing an EALAF Foundation or East Asia-Latin America Cultural Foundation was raised as the institutional base of such exchanges. Other important exchanges could also be done by the said foundation such as between the mass-media, young politicians and youth leaders, as well as between academics.
(2) Economic Issues
In the economic field, some participants expressed the view that, faced with the fact that the macro-economic fundamentals of East Asia are much better than those of Latin America, it is worth analyzing the reasons for this difference, in particular, by focusing on the role of education and human-resource development. The idea of exchanging information and data to prevent the recurrence of the financial crisis was also raised. Other participants proposed to explore new economic development strategies including the possibility of IT and other innovative technologies. It was also pointed out that the upgrading of small and medium-sized enterprises should be considered within these new development strategies.
Many participants agreed to the necessity of understanding better the characteristics of the movements for integration in Asia and in Latin America through a comparative analysis. Although it is premature to talk about the economic integration between East Asia and Latin America, bilateral negotiations should be encouraged as the first step to that direction.
(3) Other Related Matters
Many participants agreed that the work of EALAF should not duplicate what other similar forums have been doing with and that EALAF should be considered, at this stage, as a forum for inter-regional cooperation to be placed in the middle between the global organizations such as the UN, WTO, IMF and the sub-regional frameworks like bilateral governmental agreements and people-to-people initiatives. Some participants expressed the view that, although EALAF is a useful inter-governmental forum, coalition-building with relevant international bodies like regional development banks and think tanks of the both regions will contribute to the expansion of the EALAF process.
3. Issues to be Considered as a Basis for Future EALAF Dialogue
Through the intensive and extensive discussion in the symposium, the participating members of the Symposium agreed to suggesting several issue areas to the Ministerial Meeting of March as the subjects for the future dialogue within the framework of EALAF. The participants consider the following issue areas as most relevant for sharing experiences in coping with our common challenges through identifying and analyzing their complexity.
(1) National and International Governance
In the increasingly interdependent world, the control capacity of national governments is more limited than before. On the one hand, they now need to share some of their power with international and transnational entities. On the other hand, we are observing the growth of sub-national entities, both public and private, to which the national governments are required to be responsive and accountable. But it is also true that more tasks and expectations are being given to the national governments. How to elaborate fair international rules and how to consolidate efficient and transparent governments are common challenges for all countries.
(2) Social Issues and Social Programs
The process of globalization in economic areas inevitably sharpens domestic and international competition among the market players and widens the gap between the winners and the losers. One of the challenges is to examine the consequent social problems and explore the best solutions for social security and poverty reduction. An attention should also be paid to people-based measures such as communal safety nets and empowerment.
(3) New Development Strategy
Globalization has been accelerated by liberalization, deregulation and a rapid development of transport and communication technologies for the last twenty years. In this context, we face a new challenge of strengthening competitiveness of respective economies. All nations need to cope with the digital-divide problem, both on the national and international level, to have a fair and sustainable development. It is also important to strengthen the industrial structure by fostering the supporting industries (especially the small and medium-sized enterprises), which are key factors for sustained socio-economic development.
(4) Trade, Investment and Inter-Regional Cooperation
The information gap about macro-economic conditions, trade and investment that exists between the two regions should be addressed through comparative analyses. This task is a prerequisite for economic cooperation between the two regions. It is also important to understand the nature of the regional and bilateral integration and cooperation in the respective regions and the cross-Pacific initiatives in order to assess possible impacts of these processes and initiatives on each other and on the mutual relations.
(5) Cultural Exchange and Mutual Understanding
The globalization and the development of communication technologies exert strong pressure for cultural and institutional standardization. How local and national cultures face this challenge is an important theme for "experience sharing" between the two regions. Based on this effort for mutual understanding, both regions should search for the means to foster effective cultural exchange and cooperation including cross-cultural programs and events, scholarship and awards and commendation of outstanding achievements for mutual understanding. In view of the complexity and diversity of cultural activities, it may be recommendable for the participating countries to consider a specialized entity such as an East Asia-Latin America Cultural Foundation whose eventual creation would still be subject to assessment.
(6) Environmental Problems
The environmental decay is caused by many factors including economic growth, the consequent urbanization and population growth and the competitive productive activities. To avoid lowering the standard for environmental protection for the sake of economic competition, nations are required to understand respective environmental problems and to coordinate their policy. In addition, the EALAF members should pay a special attention to the phenomenon such as EL NIÑO or ENSO that affect both sides of the Pacific and cause tragic natural disasters and sufferings.
(7) Education, Science and Technology
Education is considered as the key for the sustainable and durable development for all nations. East Asia and Latin America can learn from each other by examining respective strategies for human resource development for the new age of international competition. They also should explore the means to expand scientific and technological exchanges to keep pace with the fast advancement of science and technology in the world.
4. In order to address these issues under the framework of EALAF, some participants suggested to establish several working groups composed of academics, corporate leaders and government officials on the basis of voluntary participation of the member countries. The task of these working groups is to conduct joint research on individual issues and report the results to the SOMs and the Ministerial meetings as reference materials upon which government leaders can devise concrete measures to strengthen the relationship between the two regions. The idea was also raised of building a closer network of relevant think tanks from East Asia and Latin America, so that EALAF leaders can seek the insight and advice of policy-oriented scholars. We the participants of this Symposium for Intellectuals from East Asia and Latin America (SIEALA) strongly endorse this idea and hope that this Symposium will mark the first step in the continuing process in this direction.
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