East Asia Summit

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The East Asia Summit (EAS) is a pan-Asia forum to be held annually by the leaders of 16 countries in East Asia and the region, with ASEAN in a leadership position. Russia has applied for membership and as of 2005, attends on observer status. The first summit was held in Kuala Lumpur on December 14 2005 and subsequent meetings will be held after the annual ASEAN leaders’ meetings.


Countries involved

ASEAN countries are depicted in red, the additional ASEAN Plus Three countries in green, the three additional members of EAS in blue, and Russia as a proposed member of EAS in yellow.

The 16 countries involved in the first EAS in December 2005 (Malaysia) and the second EAS in January 2007 (the Philippines) were:

Flag of Russia Russia participated in the first EAS as an observer and has expressed desire and even requested to become a member. Their position as a future member is supported by China. [1]

Template:TLS is a candidate ASEAN member seeking membership within five years (from 2006) [2]; presumably new members of ASEAN would also join the EAS <ref>"09-East Timor soon to join ASEAN", Balita - Linking Filipinos worldwide with news since 1994, 2007-01-09. Retrieved on 2007-03-06. </ref> .

Template:PAK and Template:MNG have been proposed as future members by Malaysia. [3] [4]

Template:PNG has been proposed as a future member by Australia.

The Template:USA has now stated that it hopes to have some role in the future of the EAS. [5]

The Template:Country data EUEuropean Union has indicated it wishes to have a role as an observer. [6] [7]

However, ASEAN has decided to freeze new "membership" of EAS for at least two years (which would seem to cover the second and third EAS). [8]

History prior to the first East Asia Summit

The concept of an East Asia Grouping has significant history going back to an idea first promoted in 1991 by then Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir bin Mohamad for an East Asia Economic Caucus. [9]

The final report in 2002 of the East Asian Study Group, established by the ASEAN Plus Three countries, was based on an EAS involving ASEAN Plus Three, therefore not involving Australia, New Zealand or India [10]. The EAS as proposed was to be an ASEAN lead development, with the summit to be linked to ASEAN summit meetings however the issue was to which contries beyond those in ASEAN the EAS was to be extended to.

The decision to hold the EAS was reached during the 2004 ASEAN Plus Three summit and the initial 16 members determined at the ASEAN Plus Three Ministerial Meeting held in Laos at the end of July 2005. [11] [12]

Credit for advancing the forum during the 2004 ASEAN Plus Three summit has been attributed to both the People's Republic of China [13] and Malaysia[14].

Meetings held

Meeting Country Location Date Note
First Flag of Malaysia Malaysia Kuala Lumpur December 14, 2005 Russia attended as an observer.
Second Flag of the Philippines Philippines Cebu City January 15, 2007 Rescheduled from December 13, 2006.
Third Flag of Singapore Singapore Singapore November 21, 2007 Scheduled

Issues related to first EAS in 2005

The presence of non-East Asian countries

While India is included in Asia it is normally identified as part of South Asia not East Asia. Australia and New Zealand are usually included in Oceania rather than Asia, although some differ and the distinction can be unclear, and they may be seen as part of the Asia Pacific.

The involvement of countries not seen as traditionally part of East Asia, especially Australia and New Zealand but to a lesser extent India as well, was seen as controversial by some. The inclusion of Australia and New Zealand was considered problematic as these nations were said to be neither geographically nor culturally part of Asia. Former Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir bin Mohamad, credited with raising the idea of an East Asian caucus, was especially critical of the involvement of Australia and New Zealand. [15]

Australia's presence was only confirmed after Australia reversed its previous policy and agreed to execute ASEAN's Treaty of Amity and Cooperation. [16] [17]

The presence of India was met by "quiet resistance" from China. [18] This stance may have reflected, in part, the perception that the presence of India would act to lessen Chinese influence in the EAS, as discussed further below.

Although not strictly East Asian all three countries did have a notable history with ASEAN. In 1974 Australia became ASEAN's first dialogue partner[19]. New Zealand became a dialogue partner in the following year, 1975 [20]. Summits with ASEAN for both countries were first held in 1977.

Australia and New Zealand as the two Closer Economic Relations (CER) countries have also developed close ties with ASEAN [21] and have been negotiating a CER-ASEAN free trade agreement since 2004 [22].

The linkages between ASEAN and India are more recent [23]. India did not become a full ASEAN dialogue partner until 1995. Nevertheless India's "look East" policy has placed particular emphasis on building relationships in the Asian region [24].

Koizumi's Visits to the Yasukuni Shrine

Japan-China and Japan-South Korea ties were strained ahead of the first Summit because of Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi controversial visits to the Yasukuni shrine, which honors 14 Class-A war criminals alongside Japan's other fallen soldiers. These visits are perceived by China and South Korea as symptomatic of a Japan that has not come to terms with its role in World War II, a conclusion disputed by Japan. [25] [26]

The most recent (at the time) visit by Prime Minister Koizumi was on 17 October 2005, so the issue was still fresh by the EAS in December. As a result the traditional Japan-China-South Korea meeting on the sidelines of the ASEAN Plus Three meeting (which preceded the EAS) was cancelled by China and South Korea. [27]

The rise of China and the need to check Chinese influence

The presence of the non-East Asian India, and to a lesser extent Australia and New Zealand, was seen by some as an attempt by some members of ASEAN (such as Singapore, Indonesia and the Philippines) to include countries who by their size or economies may act as a check to the rising influence of China, especially as the weakness in Sino-Japanese relations undermined the ability of Japan to perform that role. [28] [29]

China has attributed the presence of Australia and India to Japanese influence. [30]

The absence of the United States of America

The absence of the United States of America was seen by some commentators as symptomatic of what was said to be the USA's declining influence in Asia. [31]

Some view this as linked with what is perceived as Chinese influence rising. [32]

Outcome of the first EAS

The difficulties in the relationship between the "Plus Three" members (ie Japan, China and South Korea) of ASEAN Plus three together with the positioning of parties due to the presence of the non-East Asian countries, India, Australia and New Zealand, resulted in limitations in what could be achieved at the inaugural EAS. The role of the inaugural EAS then became a confidence building and familiarisation exercise.

The Kuala Lumpur declaration and the Avian Influenza Prevention, Control and Response declaration were signed by the 16 leaders during the first EAS.

It was agreed to hold future EASs in conjunction with the annual ASEAN meetings.

The outcomes that were achieved are summarised in the Chairman’s Statement of the First East Asia Summit.

Issues related to second EAS in 2007

The next EAS was to be held on December 13 2006 in Metro Cebu, Philippines. After the confidence building of the inaugural EAS the 2006 EAS will help to define the future role of the EAS, its relationship with ASEAN Plus Three and the involvement of Russia in EAS. However in the face of Tropical Typhoon Utor the summit was post-poned until January 2007. [33] [34] It has been re-scheduled for January 15 2007, approximately a month after the original scheduled date. [35]

The meeting of EAS foreign ministers in Kuala Lumpur on 26 July 2006 identified energy, finance, education, avian flu and national disaster mitigation as the priority issues for the 2006 EAS. [36] [37] The Philippines, the host of the 2006 (now 2007) EAS, has also said the failure of the Doha Round will be on the agenda. [38]

EAS Free Trade Agreement/Comprehensive Economic Partnership for East Asia (CEPEA)

In April 2006 Japan announced a proposal for an East Asian Economic Partnership Agreement (also known as the Comprehensive Economic Partnership for East Asia (CEPEA) or the Nikai Initiative in reference to Toshihiro Nikai in reference to the then Japanese Economic Minister) consisting of the current members of the EAS. [39] [40] [41] [42] Japan, the promoter of the concept, described it as an "East Asia OECD". [43] Initially this was linked with a timetable for discussions to commence in 2008 and to conclude in 2010, which met with some scepticism. [44] [45]

By August 2006 this had been refined to a Japanese proposal[46] championed by Japanese Trade Minister Toshihiro Nikai consisting of:

  • a fund of US$80 million to $100 million to initiate a comprehensive economic partnership (CEP) with East Asia, modelled on the OECD [47] [48]; and
  • an institution to be named the East Asia Economic Research Institute for ASEAN and East Asia (ERIA) in an ASEAN country to research the benefits of a proposed Free Trade Agreement between the 16-members of the EAS; and
  • an East Asian Free Trade Agreement (EAFTA) between the EAS members.

Responses were mixed. Following the discussions of EAS Foreign Minister in Kuala Lumpur on 26 July 2006, to establish the agenda for the second EAS, it appeared that the proposal as it then stood did not have sufficient support to be included as an agenda item for the second EAS. [49] Although the Philippines, which was the host for the second EAS, said trade would be on the agenda but in terms of the then present difficulties with the Doha Round. [50]

Nevertheless even after the meeting of the EAS Foreign Ministers Japan appeared keen to continue to discuss the idea in terms of a Free Trade Agreement between the members of the EAS. [51] [52]

India came out publicly in support of a pan-Asia Free Trade Agreement. [53] New Zealand expressed its support. [54] [55] As has Malaysia. [56] Australia described the proposal as "interesting".[57] Indonesia gave guarded support to the proposal [58], linking it with the proposed East Asian Community and Asian Values. [59] ASEAN gave it's support to the Japanese proposal to research the proposed EAFTA. [60] [61] [62]

Ong Keng Yong, the secretary-general of ASEAN has suggested that "it can be done", referring to an EAFTA, and estimated it would take 10 years. [63] ASEAN as a whole seemed to have a pessimistic view as to the feasibility of the idea at 2006. [64]

Japan nevertheless said it was delighted with the positive response to the proposal. [65]

Nevertheless China, South Korea and ASEAN were also said to have indirectly expressed scepticism about the idea. [66] The difficulties with the ASEAN - India FTA does not augur well for a larger FTA. [67] [68] Japan also had to defend itself from the allegation that the proposal was advanced as a mechanism to counter China. [69]

The position of China was expected by some commentators [70] although not all agreed. [71] China appears to prefer the narrower grouping of ASEAN plus Three for a future Free Trade Agreement. [72] New Zealand has expressed confidence that China will support the proposal, especially if the research shows a benefit to East Asia from an EAFTA. [73] [74]

The United States of America has proposed a FTA within the members of APEC which may be in response to the suggestion of an FTA between the members of the EAS. [75] Japan has suggested that the EAFTA could be used as a building block for the larger APEC FTA. [76] The US is aggressively coming out against such a move concerned about a line down the middle of the Pacific while Asian economies are concerned about the US's ability to deliver a broad based FTA. [77]

In September 2006 Toshihiro Nikai was replaced as Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry (Japan) by Akira Amari. Nikai's successor has pursued the Nikai initiative - Comprehensive Economic Partnership for East Asia (CEPEA).

Growth in India and China ties and the Japanese thaw

In November 2006 India and China announced plans to double bilateral trade by 2010. [78]. The growing relationship between the world's two most populous nations was seen as a potential source of stabilitty and co-operation for the region.[79] The two countries joint declaration of 21 November 2006 agreed at paragraph 43 to "cooperate closely" in the context of the EAS. [80]

Further the change in leadership in Japan with Shinzo Abe's election to the Prime Ministership of Japan in September 2006 brought about some thawing in Japan's relationship with both China and South Korea. [81]

These changes suggested the potential for different dynamics in the second EAS to the tensions in the first.

Fuel stockpiles

It is proposed that an agreement to standardise rules for bio-fuels and agreements on stockpiling fuels will form part of the 2006 EAS. [82] [83]

Outcome of the second EAS

A statement by the Chair was released discussing what was achieved at the second EAS. [84]


The EAS members signed the Cebu Declaration on East Asian Energy Security, a declaration on energy security and biofuels containing statement for members to prepare, non-binding, targets. [85]

Trade and the Comprehensive Economic Partnership for East Asia (CEPEA)

As to trade and regional integration the following was noted in the Chair's report:

12. We welcomed ASEAN's efforts towards further integration and community building, and reaffirmed our resolve to work closely together in narrowing development gaps in our region. We reiterated our support for ASEAN's role as the driving force for economic integration in this region. To deepen integration, we agreed to launch a Track Two study on a Comprehensive Economic Partnership in East Asia (CEPEA) among EAS participants. We tasked the ASEAN Secretariat to prepare a time frame for the study and to invite all our countries to nominate their respective participants in it. We welcomed Japan's proposal for an Economic Research Institute for ASEAN and East Asia (ERIA).

According to some press reports the debate as to whether there will be a trade grouping based on ASEAN Plus 3 or the EAS. [86]

The United States has substequently stated that it opposes any trade group in the region not involving itself. [87] The preference of the United States appears to be a trading group based on APEC.

The members of EAS agreed to study the Japanese proposed [88] [89] Comprehensive Economic Partnership for East Asia (CEPEA). As noted above the second EAS welcomed the Economic Research Institute for ASEAN and East Asia (ERIA).

East Asian Community

Main article: East Asian Community

Prior to the EAS

The idea of establishing an East Asian Community has a long history. In 1999 a Joint Statement on East Asia Cooperation [90] was issued on the topic of East Asia integration.

Prior to the creation of the EAS it appeared that ASEAN Plus Three would take the role of community building in East Asia.[91] [92] [93]

Subsequent to the EAS

After the EAS was established the issue arose of whether any future East Asia Community would arise from the EAS or ASEAN Plus Three. Malyasia felt that it was still the case that the role of the community building fell to ASEAN Plus Three shortly before the second EAS despite "confusion". [94] China apparently agreed whereas Japan and India felt the EAS should be the focus of the East Asian Community. [95] [96]

After the first EAS the feasibility of EAS to have a community building role was questioned with Ong Keng Yong, the secretary-general of ASEAN being quoted as describing the EAS as little more than a "brainstorming forum". [97] Nevertheless the Chairman’s Press Statement for the Seventh ASEAN Plus Three Foreign Ministers’ Meeting Kuala Lumpur, 26 July 2006 said

25. The Ministers welcomed the convening of the East Asia Summit as a forum for dialogue on broad strategic, political and economic issues of common interest with the aim of promoting peace, stability and economic prosperity in East Asia. In this respect, they recognized that the East Asia Summit could make a significant contribution to the achievement of the long-term goal of establishing an East Asian community.

It appeared that over time following the first EAS the focus was less on whether the EAS has a role in community building to what the role and whether it was secondary to ASEAN Plus Three. By mid-2006 the Chinese news site Xinhua Net suggested the community would would arise through a two-phase process with ASEAN Plus Three as the first phase and the EAS as the second phase. [98] The China-India joint declaration of 21 November 2006 linked, at paragraph 43, the EAS with the East Asian Community process. [99]

The nature of the East Asia Community

The shape of the East Asia Community remains something to be defined in the future. The issues being explored at this stage deal with whether there will be a Community which must be resolved prior to understanding what it will look like. [100]

Some have linked the EAS with a future broader Asian Economic Community like the European Community. [101] However some commentators see this an overly optimistic vision [102] and it is plainly in the very distant future if it is to occur - the European Community has taken decades to reach its current shape.

On any view community building is not a short term project. However after the second EAS the Indian Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh was confident that the EAS would lead to an East Asia Community. [103] China had also apparently accepted this was the case. [104]

If achieved the Comprehensive Economic Partnership for East Asia (CEPEA) would be a tangible first step in the community building process. The second EAS seems to have increased confidence in CEPEA but is still only a proposal. [105]

For the moment currency union, as distinct from the Asian Currency Unit, is not even being purused within ASEAN, much less the broader members of the EAS. [106] [107]

The cultural, religious, language and racial groupings in the EAS are diverse. [108] There is also great disparity in the size and level of development in the economies and in the populations of the nations involved. Plainly the level of support within the EAS for such an ambitious role for the EAS is mixed. The outcomes of EAS 2006 may provide some indication for the role and shape of EAS in East Asian community building.

The relationship with ASEAN Plus Three

The relationship between the EAS on the one hand and ASEAN Plus Three on the other is still not clear. As discussed above, some countries are more supportive of the narrower ASEAN Plus Three grouping whereas others support the broader, more inclusive EAS. ASEAN Plus Three, which has been meeting since December 1997 [109] has a history, including the Chiang Mai initiative [110] which appears to have led to the development of the Asian Currency Unit. This may be significant for those advocating a broader role for EAS in the future.

The tension between the groupings extends to the respective members' intentions towards future Free Trade Agreements with China and South Korea focused on ASEAN Plus Three and Japan on the broader EAS members. [111] [112]

The 1997 Asian financial crisis had demonstrated the need for regional groupings and initiatives. It was during this time ASEAN Plus Three had commenced and it was also during this time that the East Asian caucus was being discussed.

The EAS is just one regional grouping and some members down play its significance, the Australian Prime Minister John Howard has stated that the EAS was secondary as as regional summit to Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) which has on his view a premier role [113]. Not all members of EAS are members of APEC. However as the EAS meetings are scheduled with the ASEAN Plus Three meetings (they both follow the annual ASEAN meetings) and all members of ASEAN Plus Three are members of EAS the ability of the two forums to remain relevant given the existence of the other remains in question. China has stated its preference for both EAS and ASEAN Plus Three to exist side-by-side. [114]

The relationship between APEC, ASEAN Plus Three and the EAS remained unresolved heading into the 2007 APEC meeting. [115] Following the meeting Malaysian Prime Minister Abdullah Badawi described ASEAN Plus Three as the primary vehicle and implied APEC was the lesser of the three. [116] At the same time a Malaysian commentator writing in a Singaporean newspaper described concentric circles for the three with ASEAN Plus Three at the centre and APEC at the outer, also suggested the Nikai Initiative, with its regional OECD like plans, might overtaking the remianing role for APEC. [117]


The EAS is seen as a precursor of a pan-Asia summit and promises to be “open, inclusive, transparent, and forward-looking.” Together, the members represent half of the world’s population and a fifth of global trade in 2005. This is sometimes linked into a European Community-like concept of an East Asian Community as discussed above. [118] It seems it is too early to reach any conclusions of where the EAS will lead. [119]

See also


  1. ^ Yale Globel Online, The East Asia Summit: More Discord than Accord, 20 December 2005 [1]
  2. ^ Report of the East Asian Study Group[2]
  3. ^ "09-East Timor soon to join ASEAN", Balita - Linking Filipinos worldwide with news since 1994, 2007-01-09. Retrieved on 2007-03-06.

External links

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