Home Annual Conference 2nd Annual NEAT Conference, 2004 Thailand

The Second Annual Conference of  Network of East Asian Think – Tanks ( NEAT )
"Towards an East Asian Community"

The 2nd Annual Conference of the Network of  East Asian Think-Tanks (NEAT) was held in Bangkok, Thailand on 16 –17 August 2004. The meeting was jointly organized by the Institute of East Asian Studies, Thammasat University, Saranrom Institute of Foreign Affairs, Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Thailand, and Thailand Research Fund. The meeting was attended by participants from the ASEAN +3 countries with the following  institutions as the Country Coordinators: Brunei Darussalam Institute of Policy and Strategic Studies, Ministry of  Foreign Affairs, Brunei; General Department of ASEAN, Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International  Cooperation, Cambodia; Center for East Asian Studies, China Foreign Affairs University, China;  Center for East Asian Cooperation Studies , Indonesia; The Japan Forum on International Relations, Inc. Japan; Korean Institute of Southeast Asian Studies (KISEAS), Korea; Institute of Foreign Affairs, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Laos; Institute of Strategic and International Studies (ISIS) Malaysia; Myanmar Institute of Strategic and International Studies (MISIS) Myanmar; Philippine Institute for Development Studies, The Philippines; East Asian Institute, National University of Singapore,  Singapore;  Institute of East Asian Studies, Thammasat University, Thailand; and Institute for International Relations, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Vietnam.

At the opening session, Associate Professor Yupha Klangsuwan, Director of Institute of East Asia Studies, Thammasat University, the organizer of the 2nd NEAT Conference, delivered the opening remarks. Ambassador Wu Jianmin, President of University of Foreign Affairs of China, the organiser of the 1st NEAT Conference, also delivered the opening remarks. H.E.Mr. Saroj Chavanaviraj, Advisor to Minister of Foreign Affairs of Thailand delivered the Opening Address.

1.     Towards an East Asian Community

The   theme of the meeting was “Towards an East Asian Community". The participants exchanged views on how to promote East Asia Cooperation and East Asia Community. There were a variety of views and recommendations some of which can be summarized as follows:

  • Some participants had the view that the long term vision of East Asian cooperation is to create the East Asian Community.  But the task is how to define what the East Asian Community is. One approach is to define it the way we define the ASEAN Community: that it will be based on three pillars: East Asian Security Community, East Asian Economic Community, and East Asian Socio-Cultural Community.
  • The participants called for increased efforts to foster a greater sense of community and to build an East Asian identity, not just among the government leaders but also among the ordinary people in the region. It should focus on the people-to-people approach.
  • East Asia cooperation should not start from scratch or from zero but it should be based on the existing cooperation (i.e. from ASEAN cooperation). The cooperation should be based on the “functional" approach by starting from the easy and less sensitive areas ; it should focus on deepening before widening the integrative process ; it should use building block approach; and it should evolve into an open regional community and open regionalism.

2.     Economic Cooperation

The participants exchanged views on how to promote economic cooperation in East Asia. There were a variety of views and recommendations some of which can be summarized as follows:

  • For the long-term goal, the possibility of establishing the East Asia Economic Community in which there is a free flow of goods, services, investment and capital could be explored.  The single market, the economic union with common external policy could also be examined.
  • The setting up of the East Asia Free Trade Area (EAFTA) should be on the high priority list.  The building block approach could be used by consolidating the existing FTAs in the region.
  • ASEAN +3 Leaders should consider setting up an official expert group to start the feasibility study of EAFTA in 2005 and present a recommendation report in 2007.
  • Because of the existence of many regional and bilateral FTAs arrangements in East Asia, it is important that these arrangements adhere to a common framework and principle with a view to standardize and harmonize overlapping FTAs arrangement.
  • On financial cooperation, as a long-term goal, we could explore the possibility of establishing the East Asian Monetary Union, the East Asian Monetary Fund as the lender of last resort by pooling some portions of massive foreign exchange reserves held by ASEAN+3, a common or single currency, appropriate  regional exchange rate regime,  and development of regional bond market.
  • Further step should be made in strengthening financial cooperation through doubling the size of SWAP arrangements under the Chang Mai Initiative.
  • An expert group could be set up to start feasibility study for a regional monetary fund.
  • There were also proposals to establish the ASEAN+3 entrepreneur forum, East Asia trade and investment facilitation initiative, energy initiative focusing on energy policy coordination.

3.     Political and Security Cooperation

On political and security cooperation, the participants exchanged views on how to promote the cooperation in East Asia .There were a variety of views and recommendations some of which can be summarized as follows:

  • In order to enhance mutual understanding and common security awareness and perceptions, a joint study on mutual perceptions of each other and common threats and the increase of security dialogues and exchange of experts and observers were needed.
  • It was recommended that NEAT members are to be actively involved in the making of action plans for institutionalization of regional security cooperation in East Asia.
  • For the long-term goal, we could explore the possibility of setting up the East Asia Security Community taking into account the evolution of the ASEAN Security Community.
  • New measures to establish the modalities for the East Asian Security Community could be explored. The measures can include: confidence-building measures, preventive diplomacy, and conflict resolution mechanism.
  • Some participants suggested to strengthen regional mechanisms for cooperation on non-traditional security issues.
  • On the issue of human security, initiatives for the cooperation in the areas of infectious diseases, drug trafficking, human trafficking were recommended.

4.     Socio-Cultural Cooperation

The participants exchanged views on how to promote socio-cultural cooperation in East Asia. There were a variety of views and recommendations some of which can be summarized as follows:

  • Cultural diversity was the strength of East Asian region; the regional identity building should therefore be based on the process of unity among diversity.
  • As a long-term goal, we could explore the possibility of establishing the East Asian Socio-Cultural Community bonding East Asia together as a community of caring societies.
  • Regional solidarity and identity could also be developed  through expanded  personnel exchanges among East Asian  countries at all levels.

5.     Institutionalization

The participants exchanged views on institutional aspects of East Asian Community building. There were a variety of views and recommendations some of which can be summarized as follows:

  • Some participants recommended that ASEAN should remain the driving force for the evolution of structure and process of regional community-building.  But there should be continuing discussions on the modality that should avoid marginalization of ASEAN but at the same time give greater ownership to China, Japan, and Korea.
  • Some participants expressed the views that ASEAN+3 Summit framework should remain the vehicle to advance the process of cooperation.  The evolution of East Asian Summit (EAS)  is a desirable objective, but it should be part of an evolutionary process that builds on the comfort level and parallel with the ASEAN+3 framework.  In a process of finding the right modality, in the mean time, as a practical approach, the dual-track approach by engaging in the process of cooperation through both the ASEAN+3 mechanism and  at the same time supporting holding the EAS at the suitable time could be considered.
  • Some participants express the views that it is important to move the current “10+3" process into an East Asian Summit (EAS). Declaration on East Asian Community could be issued. The EAS could commission NEAT to prepare the Roadmap to East Asian Community.
  • Some participants felt that further discussion is needed concerning the issue of the secretariat of East Asia Cooperation.  The issue is that should we establish a new secretariat or using the ASEAN Secretariat by setting up the new ASEAN+3 unit within the ASEAN secretariat.  Some participants also suggested setting up new coordinating mechanism for all ASEAN+3 activities and meetings.
  • Setting up the national focal point for East Asia Cooperation is suggested
  • The possibility of establishing the “East Asia Information Center" should be explored.
  • In terms of membership, some participants felt that the principle is that it should be inclusive rather than exclusive.  East Asia should not just include ASEAN countries, China, Japan, and South Korea.  In the long term, it should expand to have an region-wide coverage.
  • In order to build the East Asian Community, it was necessary to involve various actors, including government officials (Track One), academics (Track Two) and other private sectors and civil society (Track Three).

6.     Organization of NEAT

The Country Coordinators' meeting adopted the “Basic Rules and Framework of the Network of East Asian Think-Tanks (NEAT) which incorporates the purposes and functions of NEAT, membership, Country Coordinators meeting, secretarial work, the Annual Conference and funding.

The Country Coordinators' meeting adopted the “Basic Rules and Framework of the Network of East Asian Think-Tanks (NEAT) which incorporates the purposes and functions of NEAT, membership, Country Coordinators meeting, secretarial work, the Annual Conference and funding.

The meeting discussed the activities for future cooperation which include issue for further studies, setting up three working groups to study regional security, economic and socio-cultural issues, the future workshops and roundtables, and joint research and publication.

The meeting agreed that the Memorandum Paper incorporating policy recommendations from the 2nd  NEAT would be prepared and  submitted to the ASEAN+3 Meeting particularly to the ASEAN+3 Summit in November 2004.

The meeting agreed that  Japan's Country Coordinator will be the host  for the 3rd Annual Conference of NEAT.