Wednesday 08 Apr 2020 | 22:59 | SYDNEY
Wednesday 08 Apr 2020 | 22:59 | SYDNEY

Rudd Asia-Pacific Union


Sam Roggeveen


5 June 2008 09:38

The text of the PM's speech is not up on his website yet, so I only have the press accounts to go on, but my initial reaction to his plan for an Asia-Pacific Union by 2020 is cautiously favourable. This was a striking quote:

The danger of not acting is that we run the risk of succumbing to the perception that future conflict within our region may somehow be inevitable.

I read this as a reference to the China hawks. The instinct to enmesh the region in structures that will help prevent conflict with China, rather than just preparing for it, is the right one.

Of course, there are a number of reasons why this proposal will be really difficult to bring to fruition, and why we should withold final judgment about its merits: how will we get the disparate parts of the region to agree on a structure and membership? What happens to existing fora like ASEAN, ARF and APEC, which various regional players favour for their own reasons? Will the insitution have any 'teeth', or is it just another talk shop? Why go for a new institution rather than building on an existing one? I'm sure we'll explore these and other roadblocks on The Interpreter over coming days.

One note about the appointment of Richard Woolcott as Rudd's emissary for this proposal: Woolcott is clearly a fine public servant and highly respected in the region, but given that part of Rudd's motivation in choosing Woolcott was to revive the spirit of former PM Bob Hawke's multilateralism, why not choose Hawke himself? Or, for that matter, why not pick another great booster of Asian regionalism, Hawke's successor, Paul Keating? We're not great at making full use of our former PMs, but they're big diplomatic assets. Perhaps Hawke and Keating will be wheeled out later when the negotiations get really serious.