Saturday 30 May 2020 | 05:17 | SYDNEY
Saturday 30 May 2020 | 05:17 | SYDNEY

Reader riposte: ASEAN and APc


Malcolm Cook

15 December 2009 13:13

Carl Thayer writes in response to my post about the recent conference to discuss Prime Minister Rudd's Asia Pacific community (APc) proposal:

I do not think there is an official ASEAN position on the APc. It is clear that there is no ASEAN consensus on the idea because it has not been discussed as an agenda item at ASEAN foreign ministerial level. I wasn’t invited to the APc conference at Sydney but a discerning participant surely would have picked up national differences on the APc proposal. 

But I agree with Malcolm that the rough going the Prime Minister will face is mainly his own doing.The Australian media wasn't properly briefed when it was first launched.They thought it was all about an EU-type institution. One South Australian paper called it an Asian NATO! As far as I am aware there were no focus group discussions in Australia among strategic analysts, academics and the business community.

And don’t over-credit 'ASEAN' opposition to the idea. Singapore’s Barry Desker declared it 'dead in the water'. Surely Singapore must have been firing blanks.

Thanks, Carl, for your comments and I'm glad The Interpreter is playing the role of being the forum for critical analysis of the APc initiative.

I fully agree that there is no official consensus ASEAN view of the APc. As this was only a track 1.5 conference and there were no senior and serving Southeast Asian political leaders at Taronga Zoo (the conference venue), ASEAN could not have presented such a consensus even if it did exist. I also agree that Singaporean views of things, even when presented in pan-ASEAN terms, may not capture all the views of all other ASEAN members.

However, on the sidelines of the APc conference's opening night, I was reliably informed that there was an informal meeting of senior delegates from the ASEAN delegations (all ASEAN members including Burma were represented at the conference in a doff of Canberra's hat to ASEAN centrality) to discuss common positions for the conference starting the next morning.

Moreover, the ASEAN-ISIS network of think tanks, the bastion of Southeast Asian track 1.5 and track 2 discussions on regional architecture, has come up with a common defensive position on the APc that has been publicly supported by non-Singaporean voices from within the ASEAN region.