Speech on the "Enhancement of ASEAN+3 Cooperation and NEAT Operation" by Prof. Qin Yaqing
Enhancement of ASEAN+3 Cooperation and NEAT Operation
By Prof.Qin Yaqing
China Foreign Affairs University
Ladies and Gentlemen,
I would like to express our sincere thanks to NEAT Vietnam for their gracious hospitality and wonderful arrangements. I am very happy to see old and new friends here. For years, we’ve worked together to push for regional cooperation.
The topic of this session is very well-chosen. Indeed we are facing new developments in East Asia. And next year, we will celebrate the 15th anniversary of the ASEAN Plus Three cooperation. It is indeed high time to reflect on what we have done, and think what we shall do in the coming years. If we are not prepared for challenges, we will never seize opportunities. In the following, I would like to share with you some of my observations on APT cooperation and NEAT operation respectively.
On the ASEAN Plus Three cooperation, I would like to make three points.
First, ASEAN Plus Three cooperation has been a success story, without which East Asia probably would not enjoy so much peace, prosperity and progress. Since the process started in 1997, the APT cooperation has both broadened and deepened. Cooperation is now being pursued in many areas in non-traditional security, economy and trade, society and culture. The number of coordinating mechanisms exceeds 60.
Second, facing new complexities and challenges, we should strengthen commitment to the ASEAN Plus Three Cooperation. In the last few years, there have been difficulties, complexities and challenges in the East Asian regional process. However, we should never on that account change our direction, lose our confidence or weaken our commitment to regional cooperation. Both the last APT Summit and the recent Foreign Ministers Meeting demonstrated strong political will in regional cooperation with four basic principles, an East Asian community as the long-term goal, ASEAN centrality, the APT as the main vehicle, and the mutually reinforcing and complementary roles of the various regional fora. This is the direction we should stick to and commitment we should continue to strengthen in regional process.
Third, two developments in particular give me confidence in the future of APT cooperation: one is increasing institutionalization and the other is growing people-oriented efforts. AMRO was set up in April this year. This is a very significant step to institutionalize regional financial cooperation. The APT Emergency Rice Reserve Agreement is to be signed in the coming October as a permanent mechanism to ensure food security in the region. Both mechanisms are fundamental to a safer community. Moreover, in recent years, from the agenda, we can find that APT cooperation is becoming more and more people-oriented. The gravity of regional cooperation is moving toward whatever concerns the basic well-being of our people, for example, infrastructure, food and water security, education, disaster management. After all, a community is defined by people. I believe such people-oriented-ness and increasing bottom-up approach will give new impetus to our regional process.
Now, in the context of the APT cooperation, I would like to share with you some of my views on NEAT operation. NEAT has been running successfully for 9 years and its achievements have been recognized by Track I. In the practice and operation of NEAT, three principles have been followed, namely, pragmatism, policy-relevance and cooperation. Over the years, NEAT has taken a pragmatic approach to focus on issues where regional cooperation can be promoted to advance practical benefits to the people in the region. The studies conducted by NEAT have been policy and action-oriented, and its policy recommendations have not only won recognition, but also kept NEAT very much relevant to the regional process. Moreover, over the years, NEAT has been working in the spirit of cooperation. Discussions and debates have been rendered in a way to achieve better cooperation. This shared understanding and spirit has been extremely important to sustain NEAT and to make the most out of the process.
As far as the future operation of NEAT is concerned, I would like to make two proposals.
First, we should continue the working group mechanism, for it gives life and dynamism to NEAT. In the past seven years, we’ve covered many important areas and made valuable policy recommendations. In the future, we should broaden and deepen our research in areas of shared concern. We can also carry forward-looking research for long-term strategies of regional cooperation. Not only does the NEAT process help facilitate regional cooperation, but it is a key component of regional integration itself, because it has networked and nurtured an academic community in East Asia.
Second, we should strengthen the links between NEAT and Track I. I believe, at domestic level, NEAT is better connected with Track I. But at regional level, we have limited institutionalized access to Track I. The Chairman’s Statement of the 12th APT Foreign Ministers Meeting took note of the NEAT activities and encouraged Track I to look into NEAT proposals. Since NEAT has won recognition from both the Summit and the Foreign Ministers’ Meeting, I wonder if it is possible for NEAT to sit in some Track I meetings, say, the DG meeting, or other meetings at the working level. Such participation and observation will not only reinforce our research, but also institutionalize our role in the regional process.
Finally, on behalf of NEAT China, I would like reaffirm our strong commitment to NEAT, to East Asian studies and exchanges, and to the building of a people-oriented community.