Japanese prime minister Yukio Hatoyama said the US is important to Asia’s security and economic expansion, a day after President Barack Obama promised broader engagement with the region leading the world’s recovery.
“The presence of the US has been playing, and will continue to play, an important role in ensuring peace and prosperity in Asia, including Japan,” Hatoyama said in a speech in Singapore today after attending a meeting of Asia- Pacific Economic Cooperation leaders. “This is one of the greatest reasons that Japan continues to regard the Japan-US alliance as the linchpin of Japanese foreign policy.”
Obama said yesterday the US will give greater attention to Asia’s multilateral organisations, such as the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, and wants to be part of the East Asia Summit, an Asean-centered group that includes China and India. Hatoyama has pushed for an East Asian Community modelled on the European Union, spurring speculation that the US may be excluded.
“In my initiative, I propose that countries sharing a common vision promote cooperation in various fields,” Hatoyama said. “This would be based on the principle of ‘open regional cooperation.’”
The prime minister didn’t specify which countries he expects to join the forum he proposes, which may eventually include a shared regional currency. He said yesterday he favoured “open regionalism” as an integration model and opposed “exclusionism.”
Free Trade Agreements
Policy makers around the world are seeking to develop free-trade agreements, with a focus on the Asia-Pacific region, as the World Trade Organisation’s Doha Round of talks flounders after eight years of negotiations.
An International Monetary Fund report last month forecast the Asia region will grow 5.75 percent in 2010, compared with 1.25 percent growth for the Group of Seven economies.
Hatoyama said the East Asia forum he’s proposed would develop “a multilayered network of functional communities,” such as in trade, investment, finance and education. There may be “an opportunity for us to discuss possible political cooperation in the future,” he added.
Japan has economic partnership agreements with 10 countries and one region, including with Asean members, according to Hatoyama.
‘Fully Open Up’
“Still, these agreements are insufficient to fully open up Japan,” he said.
Japan will accelerate talks on economic partnership agreements with South Korea, India and Australia and will also “actively participate” in discussions for Apec’s Free Trade Area of the Asia-Pacific region and the Comprehensive Economic Partnership in East Asia that includes Asean’s 10 members and six regional countries including China, Japan, South Korea, India, Australia and New Zealand, Hatoyama said.
On Japan’s relations with Asia, Hatoyama said his country caused “tremendous damage and suffering to the people of many countries, particularly to the people of Asian nations during wartime more than sixty years ago.”