The new Asian realism: economics and politics of the Asia Cooperation Dialogue

The new Asian realism: economics and politics of the Asia Cooperation Dialogue

Can a Pan-Asian economic and political organisation ever work?

In the post-Cold War era, there has been a surge in initiatives to strengthen existing and creating new regional organisations all over the world. Given the borderless nature of the global economic regime, it has become more crucial than ever to cooperate to increase benefits to themselves and their neighbours in areas of common interest, particularly in terms of industrialisation, trade and development. This paper looks at the Asia Cooperation Dialogue (ACD), and assesses its chances for success in light of the challenges facing the continent today.

The paper first outlines a brief history of the organisation, from its conception in 2000, to its current status after its 2nd Ministerial Meeting in 2003. It then discusses the economic rationale of the ACD, the accomplishments, and short-term goals. The concept of Asian political integration is also considered, and whether or not it is achievable through this organisation.

The paper notes that regional organisations can:

  • significantly increase bartering power for their members in scenarios such as WTO negotiations and discussions with other trading blocs like Europe
  • foster cooperation amongst countries by increasing growth and trade and sharing expertise and experience
  • encourage regional actors to work together on common development issues, liberalise and learn to compete, find stability and gain credibility in the global economic order

The paper finds that:

  • the ACD has achieved a lot – stakeholders are committing assets on their areas of cooperation, and moves to strengthen financial cooperation, like the Asian Bond Market Scheme and the Asian Bond Fund, have already been launched and lauded as successes
  • the informal format of the ACD provides a great deal of flexibility to its member countries, but this can also be a danger – when it is up to countries to take the initiative, it is possible, even likely, that some countries will get left behind
  • there is a need to involve states such as Pakistan, India, Oman and Kazakhstan in initiatives of the ACD if the organisation wants to continue to promote a pan-Asian outlook

The author argues that every Asian nation has a stake in the Dialogue and every Asian nation has an interest in seeing greater political and economic unity on the continent, in seeing barriers to trade fall, in seeing cooperation on critical issues like development and poverty alleviation. This interdependence is perhaps the only thing that can steer the ACD to success. Only when Asians realise how fundamentally they rely on each other, and how much they need to continue to rely on each other in the new global economy, can they come together in earnest to create a new, uniquely Asian identity.

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