5th Annual NEAT Conference, 2007 Singapore
5th Annual Conference of the Network of East Asian Think-Tanks (NEAT)
Singapore, 21 August 2007
1. The 5th Annual Conference of the Network of East Asian Thinks (NEAT) was held in Singapore on 21 August 2007. The conference was organized by the East Asian Institute of the National University of Singapore, which is the designated national organization for the NEAT Singapore.
2.The meeting was attended by academics and government officials from the ASEAN Plus Three (APT) countries with the following institutions as Country Coordinators: the Institute of Policy on Strategic Studies, Ministry of Foreign Affairs (Brunei); General Department of ASEAN, Cambodian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation (Cambodia); Foreign Affairs University (China); Center for East Asian Cooperation Studies, University of Indonesia (Indonesia); Japan Forum on International Relations (Japan); Institute of Foreign Affairs, Ministry of Foreign Affairs (Laos); Institute of Strategic and International Studies (Malaysia); Myanmar Institute of Strategic and International Studies (Myanmar); Philippine Institute for Development Studies (Philippines); East Asian Institute (Singapore); Korean Institute of Southeast Asian Studies (South Korea); East Asia Academic Cooperation Council (Thailand); and, Centre for Southeast Asian Studies, Institute for International Relations (Vietnam).
3. The theme of the 5th Annual Conference was “East Asia Cooperation: Towards Sustainable Development and Prosperity”. It highlights the urgent need to balance development with environmental concerns. Environmental protection can no longer be ignored or sacrificed for the sake of development and economic growth. The challenge is to strike the right balance to achieve sustainable growth and long term prosperity.
4.In line with this theme, six Working Groups presented their findings and recommendations to the 5th Annual Conference. The focus of the Working Groups is on areas of common interest and concerns to the APT countries with the aim of fostering cooperation and addressing common challenges. They cover the areas of
- Overall Architecture of Community Building in East Asia (Regional Architectures for Non-Traditional Security and Environmental Cooperation in East Asia);
- East Asian Financial Cooperation;
- East Asian Investment Cooperation;
- Enhancement of Cultural Exchange in East Asia;
- East Asian Cooperation Framework for Migration Labor; and,
- Energy Security Cooperation in East Asia
5. The reports of the six Working Groups have been put together into a set of Policy Recommendations to be submitted to the informal meeting of the APT Leaders in November 2007. The following are highlights of some of the recommendations by the Working Groups.
a. Overall Architecture for Community Building - Regional Architectures for Non-Traditional Security and Environmental Cooperation in East Asia
- On trans-national crimes, legal harmonization among member countries is urgently required in order to standardize regional counter-measures. Differences among the APT countries on the definition of crimes should be resolved to facilitate effective multilateral cooperation.
- On environmental protection, the APT countries should establish mechanisms for regional environmental cooperation on the basis of existing ASEAN frameworks such as AMME/AMME+3, ASOEN, AMAF, ASOF, and ASOEN-HTTF. It is necessary to formulate common principles of environmental protection in the region to facilitate collective action and to develop specific projects for cooperation.
- On pandemic threats such as Avian Influenza (AI), regional mechanisms for disease surveillance and control are needed. There is a need to enhance the monitoring capabilities of the APT countries. The APT countries should support, via the existing channel of APTEIDP, the strengthening of the capability of the ASEAN Secretariat which should play the leading role.
- The bilateral swap arrangements under the Chiang Mai Initiative should be turned into standby credit under a multilateral framework and the total credit line should be increased. In the meantime, discussion should be held within the APT framework on the possibility of transforming the standby credit into an East Asian Reserve Cooperation Fund.
- An Asian bond market should be developed through capacity building which may include establishing a more effective steering body to guide domestic bond markets; strengthening the infrastructures of domestic bond markets; and, improving credit, taxation and legal environments to create favorable conditions for bond market development.
- Despite differing views on an Asian currency unit, there is a need for an in-depth study to provide more insights and practical proposals on this topic. It is suggested that appropriate research and planning related to an Asian Currency Unit be carried out and a specialized body designated by the APT countries be responsible to lead this study.
- To create a more conducive environment for investment cooperation, it is proposed that FTA building be sped up and the investment element in FTA arrangements be strengthened. Greater importance should be attached to new models of East Asian investment cooperation.
- To improve the environment for investment cooperation, there should be more transparent law-making and implementation processes, more investor-friendly institutional environment, more enhanced human resources development in service sectors and more effective cooperation on International Property Rights protection.
- The APT governments should strongly support Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) related projects in the effort to tackle climate change. Pilot projects related to green investment cooperation should be set up.
- The obstacles impeding cultural exchange in the region include the lack of an understanding and appreciation of the significance of cultural diversity in the region and the importance of cultural exchange in promoting the East Asian Community; the lack of political will, institutional arrangements, adequate funding, and collaborative and concerted efforts by both the public and private sectors to enhance cultural exchange; and, the low priority accorded to culture and to cultural exchange.
- There is a need for a more participatory, people-oriented cultural exchange with balanced roles on the part of the state, market forces and private sectors.
- Efforts should be focused on priority areas to identify ways and means to foster cultural cooperation among the people of the region. These priority areas could include the media, popular culture and cultural festivities, education, people-to-people exchange, performing arts and cultural exhibition.
- A regional cooperation framework must uphold the following rights of migrant workers and family members residing with them: right to life; right to freedom from torture and inhumane treatment; right to freedom from forced labour, including debt bondage; right to freedom from indiscriminate incarceration and detention; and, right to freedom of movement.
- Source countries should provide migrant workers with information and training before they leave their countries. Host countries should provide them with counselling and advice centers during their service.
- The implementation of migrant worker policies should also be guided by international labor standards, in particular by ILO’s Multilateral Framework on Labor Migration and its fundamental principles.
- Migrant workers should be protected by national employment legislation which, among other things, specifies normal hours worked, overtime payment rates, rest days, annual leave, medical entitlement and retrenchment benefits (if any).
- There is growing and urgent need to explore viable alternatives, particularly renewable sources of energy such as safe nuclear energy, clean coal, solar energy and biofuels.
- The APT countries should hasten the development of the Trans ASEAN Gas Pipeline (TAGP) as an alternative energy source and reduce the heavy reliance on oil in the transportation sector.
- They should remove impediments to cross-border investments for energy diversification projects and devise a conducive set of policies and incentives to achieve a more viable energy mix.
- The ASEAN Centre for Energy (ACE) should explore expanding its scope of activities to cover all APT countries. In particular, the centre should pay more attention and channel more resources to energy conservation and diversification efforts.