‘High Season’ for Global Summitry

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APEC 2013



So we are about to enter high season in the  global summitry calendar.   First up will  be the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation scheduled for Yanqi Lake just outside Beijing proper on November 11 and 12, 2014.  This is in turn followed by the ASEAN Summit (technically not a global summit) where the day following is the global summit meeting called the East Asia Summit (EAS).  This Leaders Summit includes 18 Asia-Pacific leaders now that Russia and the United States have been added as of 2011.  The meeting this year will take place in Naypyidaw the capital city of Myanmar.  And with a final burst of energy Leaders will meet for the G20 Leaders Summit on November 14-15th in Brisbane this year.  It is a tight schedule designed to allow leaders to attend all three and then to return to their home countries.

So what is it that we can expect to emerge from the various gathering of leaders?  Let me hold back for the next post the G20 in Brisbane.  But the outcomes for the other two, well the presumed outcomes are not a completely obvious.  But let me suggest just a few possible policy outputs.

Let’s look at APEC first.  This is an important gathering, at least for China, that has not held APEC in 13 years.  The APEC gathering represents the first global summitry gathering for its new President, Xi Jinping and his Standing Committee colleagues.  So needless to say it is at least important from the media imagery perspective, as from possible substantive result.  It would seem that for China the key concern for this gathering for the leadership is to project Chinese leadership for this largely East Asia gathering of leaders.  Not surprisingly then, there is a bit of “pulling and hauling” between China and the United States.  First,China launched its new development bank the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) just recently. China is encouraging APEC economies to sign up and many have.  The outstanding ones appear to be Australia, Japan, Korea and for the moment Indonesia (the new government of Joko Widodo indicated that it had not had time to consider the proposal).  Recently Australia has suggested also it is considering joining as a founding member.  I have no doubt that China would love to have a public indication that Australia or Indonesia, or indeed any of the above would be prepared to publicly announce their concurrence to sign up.  Part of the issue here  is that the US has criticized the AIIB concerned that it may undermine the World Bank or the ADB, that is dominated by Japan.

But the main event is a tussle over the mega-regional trade agreements.  The US is trying to push forward on the Trans Pacific Partnership, or TPP.  Now this mega regional does not include China.  Meanwhile in the recent past China has pushed forward withy the far less trade liberalizing Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership.  But in the last while it appears that Xi Jinping has urged that APEC permit him to announce the long idled FTAAP or the Free Trade Agreement of the Asia Pacific.  The Chinese leadership at least wants to announce agreement to undertake a feasibility study.  The FTAAP would encompass all 21 economies in APEC and China wants to be seen to take leadership for the initiative and to in the process diminish the lustre of the TPP.  We shall look to see if such an announcement is forthcoming.

Now as for EAS, a former official described in a recent Voice of America piece by Steve Herman, the approach to this gathering, or at least its counterpart at ASEAN is: “No, ASEAN is not about breakthroughs. ASEAN works on an incremental basis, …”

Now there is some prospect that ASEAN in its concluding chairman’s statement may indicate progress on a Code of Conduct for resolving disputes in the South China Sea.  The leaked statement provided in an article by Sok Khemara at the Voice of America goes on to suggest the following will be in the declaration:

We reaffirmed the collective commitments of ASEAN member states and China to peace, stability and maritime security and for the full and effective implementation of the Declaration of Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea (DOC) in its entirety. We noted progress on negotiations on the Code of Conduct in the South China Sea (COC) and underscored the importance of maintaining the momentum of negotiations and working expeditiously towards the early conclusion of the COC.

This Code of Conduct with China would govern South China Sea disputes.  The Chinese have been quite reticent to finalize this longstanding Code. China has made it clear that it prefers bilateral negotiations. But slowly ASEAN has pushed China to work on a COC.  The principal reason for such ASEAN energy is that the COC, as opposed to the earlier Declaration, of some years back would be considered binding on all the parties.

Aside from these issues the real attention for APEC and indeed possibly EAS is the series of bilateral meetings being planned – or not.  There was early hope that Xi Jinping would hold a first formal meeting with Taiwan’s president, Ma Ying-jeou.  But Hong Kong has killed that prospect. The way forward in relations with Taiwan, according to China would be a one country-two systems variation on Hong Kong and China.  But that approach is all but dead now with the demonstrations in Hong Kong and the refusal of the Chinese authorities to consider ant revision to the democracy vote in HK.

Next in the list of bilateral is a first meeting of Xi Jinping and Shinzo Abe, Japan’s prime minister.  Tensions have risen with the actions of Japan and China in the East China Sea.  These tensions have been exacerbated by PM Abe’s visit to the Yasukuni Shrine, which China, and indeed others, view as a sign of Japan’s or at least Abe’s unwillingness to accept responsibility for Japan’s actions in World War II.  A meeting of the two leaders would certainly be seen by most as a lowering of the temperature between the two – and a welcome sign between these two powers in East Asia.

And then there are the possibilities in the sure to happen Xi-Obama meeting.  Will this meeting afford leaders the opportunity to share responsibility in the Asia region?  Or will the rivalry of the two be on display with this conclave.   Let’s wait and watch.

Image Credit: globalnation.inquirer.net


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