Let's oppose the °»Idea of East Asian Community°…!

Japan Lawyers International Solidarity Association°°Lawyer:Kensaku Kawauchi

[Preface] It has long been said that stalemate and despotism in Asia is a past thing. Dr. Younosuke Hara , in My View on the Present Day Asian Economy, asserts that economic growth in Asia in the second half of the 20th century is a °»landmark of world historical significance.°… He also states that °»Asia°«s overall share in the world economy continued to drop from 58.3 % in 1820 to 30.6 % in 1900, 25.8 % in 1929, and 19.3 % in 1950°ń but rose to 24.1 % in 1970, and 36.7 % in 1992.°…(*1) The countries which achieved this marked economic growth were Japan, and Newly Industrializing Economies (NIEs), ASEAN countries and East Asian countries, including China.(*2)
It is noteworthy that the economy in East Asia region not only has expanded in quantity but has become interdependent. In the Japanese Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry 2005 White Paper on International Trade, it is noted that the ratio of intraregional trade of East Asia increased to 54.2 % in 2003 from 33.4 % in 1980, while that of the countries of the EU increased to 66.3 % from 56.8 %, and NAFTA only increased to 44.9 % from 33.2 % in the same period. °»The intraregional trade ratio of East Asia is higher than that of NAFTA, and close to the level of the EU at the time of the systematic integration which formed a single market°….(*3)
With this economic situation as a background, the idea of an East Asian Community (°∆EAC°«) has emerged in Asia. The idea was initially launched by the East Asia Vision Group (EAVG) set up at Kim Dae Jung°«s proposal. The proposal in its report(*4) says, °»We peoples in East Asia desire to create an East Asian community for peace, prosperity, and progress based on full development of peoples in the region.°… When government leaders in Asia voiced no opposition to the idea, the November 2004 ASEAN Plus 3 Summit agreed to hold the 1st East Asia Summit in Malaysia in December 2005. The 1st summit does not necessarily mean the creation of the EAC, but will open a historic page in its founding.
For the summit meeting, 58 Japanese members of the Council on East Asian Community (Japan) on August 11, 2005 proposed a policy report The State of the Concept of East Asian Community and Japan°«s Strategic Response thereto(*5). This proposal represents efforts to promote the idea of an EAC, and is expected to have a great effect in its creation.
The debate about the EAC has surged among the elite political levels in Japan as a result of this proposal. However, awareness among Japanese people is low, and even jurists and peace activists are not very aware of the proposal or the concept of an EAC. I hear that jurists and people in the rest of Asia are generally indifferent to the idea as well. In view of the importance of this issue, such a condition is very regrettable.
This paper aims to introduce and criticize the important points of the idea of an EAC, in the hope of inciting a broader debate on this important issue.

Necessity for an EAC
A community is different from mere cooperation between countries. It partially denies some principles of independent government authority and sovereignty as a premise of a nation, and transfers some sovereignty to a community. This causes tremendous trouble in the countries , as can be seen in the currency debates of the EU. Since no community has been born in East Asia, these questions arise: why is a mere cooperation between nations not enough? Or why is a community necessary now?
No documents to answer these questions have yet been issued . This is because the arguments in ASEAN Plus Three meetings did not succeed in coming to a united view. The fact that they have reached no agreement on basic points shows their relationship is that of acting together on different thoughts.
Then what do Japanese promoters of the idea really think about this community? Their proposal mentioned above doesn°«t provide a clear answer to our questions. One passage states °»a core of Japan°«s vision in the future may be to establish an East Asia around Japan which will prosper in peace, and respect free and democratic values and regional traditions.°…(*6) This appears to be a description of a community, and includes suggestions of how Japan will relate to that community. But a mere description is not enough to settle the criticism which must arise on the suggested theory that Japan needs this community, and its failure to propose why it is necessary for other East Asian countries and people.
°»From the viewpoint of prosperity, the EAC idea will connect Japan°«s national interest directly more than the standpoint of security. In short, it is self-evident that Japanese economic growth needs free and active mobility of humans, goods, money, and information, and buildup of close relationships with this region having high potential growth.°…(*7) This description shows transparently that the necessity of an economic community is clear to Japan°«s leading elite and they want to exert effort toward the creation of an economic community. But what is being aimed for is a fully political, military, social, and cultural community, not a mere economic community. There seems to be a lack of clarity in their definitions. How do they explain this?
To make an °»environment where humans, goods, money, and information can move freely and actively°… is meant to guarantee complete freedom of activity for multinational corporations, but this point is stated later.

Idea of the EAC
ASEAN Plus Three have not yet announced their official version of an EAC. Therefore I will examine the concept of an EAC as it appears in the proposal.
The proposal°«s °∆idea of the EAC,°« set outs four points; °»emphasis on idea of °∆peace, prosperity and progress°«,°… °»emphasis on principles of °∆openness, transparency and comprehensiveness°«,°… and °»promotion of functional cooperation,°… and °»slow formation of identity.°…(*8)
The keywords and activities mentioned represent quite a mixture of actions, although this is not such an issue. Major problems do exist within this four-point statement as outlined below.
Firstly, ideas of °∆peace, prosperity and progress°« took precedence over ideas of freedom, human rights and democracy. This order was adopted by the EAVG because it anticipated negative reactions from China and other countries if human rights and issues of government structure (democracy and its variations) were brought to the fore. In fact, this point was hotly discussed in a meeting of the Council on East Asian Community. I think we should criticize human rights violation in China and North Korea more strongly. In accordance with China°«s ratification of the International Covenants on Human Rights, the proposal should have included phrases such as °∆freedom, democracy, and human rights°« in some form.
Secondly, the relation of the proposed EAC to citizens of the countries of the community and to NGOs is not clear. Even if units capable of joining the EAC are limited to countries or city-states and quasi-countries, the aims of the EAC cannot be achieved without the direct participation of peoples of East Asia and NGOs. But the proposal remains utterly silent in this regard. The silence means that peoples and NGOs are mere objects of EAC activities, not their subjects. Here lies the Japanese leading elite°«s hostility and incomprehension toward NGO activities and their self-righteousness which is removed from global views. In my opinion, the elite°«s hostility and incomprehension are long-standing habits from Yukichi Fukuzawa, a Japanese intellectual in the late 19th century.
As an aside, I would like to make a comment on the issue of the qualification for entry into the EAC. Can Taiwan, the U.S.A. and India join? And in what capacity, and when? Qualification for entry issues came to the fore in the preparation for the First East Asia Summit, which give us some kind of example. Australia, New Zealand, and India were approved for entry into the summit, and Russia°«s joining was carried over to the following session. The U.S. is reported to have given up entering on the grounds that it has not become a formal member. The controversy over qualification for entry stems from different ulterior motives of China, Japan, and the U.S. and the Sino-Japanese struggle for hegemony currently being waged. The proposal states, °»EAC ideas have a destiny of a question of how to stipulate relationships with the countries outside East Asia region,°… thus evading the controversy.(*9) With °∆principles of comprehensiveness,°« the proposal tries to take a stance of actively cooperating with countries other than ASEAN Plus Three on individual tasks. This phrasing was chosen to promote the EAC, but some day the issue will inevitably kindle.

Activities of the EAC
It is natural to want to think what the EAC will carry out in order to judge for ourselves whether it is the right or wrong thing to do. But ASEAN Plus Three haven°«t yet announced any detailed plans. The proposal has listed various proposed activities, which we may examine as a concrete model of the proposed functional cooperation toward the founding of the community.
The proposal has listed three fields of activities: °∆trade and investment cooperation in East Asia°ńfinancial cooperation in the region, and °ńpolitical, social, cultural cooperation in the region,°« further detailing a total of 14 activities. (*10)
In the field of Trade and investment cooperation in East Asia, the proposal outlines a three-stage economic integration. The 1st stage is a united market where humans, money, information are freely mobile; the 2nd stage is a customs union applying a common system to outside regions, and the 3rd stage is economic integration including a sole currency, a high-level free trade agreement (FTA), and Japan°«s market opening.
In the field of financial cooperation in East Asia, the proposal raises °∆currency stabilization within the region (eyeing in the future a regional basket peg system, common currency units)°ńexpansion of bond market in local currency within East Asia region, strengthening of Japan°«s financial sector---getting rid of bad debts problem and revitalizing intra-region investment°ńand internationalization of Japan°«s financial market.°«
In the field of political, social and cultural cooperation in East Asia, the proposal raises °∆from functional cooperation to increasing trust°«, °∆creation of °»East Asian cooperative mechanisms in energy and environment°«°… (to tackle energy and environment issues, including environmental education in integration regionally), °∆build-up of a °»mechanism of East Asian marine security°«°…(concerning pirates, terrorism on the sea, and tsunami), °∆establishment of a °»system for measures against infectious diseases,°«°… °∆setup of °»multinational, cultural cooperation and exchange mission in East Asia,°«°… °∆concrete proposal on °»cultural exchanges and cooperation,°«°… (to increase cultural and intellectual dialogues, to succeed to cultural tradition, and to promote understanding on culture and disseminate knowledge, popularize media and information),and °∆promotion of academic and education exchange°«.
As regards the above contents, I would like to point out three items focusing on problems that the proposal does not refer to.
The first item concerns military cooperation. The proposal says, °»We positively push forward with forming the EAC, but it should be premised on maintaining the Japan-U.S. alliance.°…(*11) Granted that being Japanese they are forced to take such a stance, but the delegates should have proposed a mechanism by which Japan would be able to carry out activities for peace which deviate from the Japan-U.S. Security Treaty, such as easing tensions in the Taiwan Strait, and intensifying ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF). However, the proposal makes no remark on this issue. What is worse, it doesn°«t clearly state a possible dissolution of the Japan-U.S. alliance in the future. Perpetual existence of the alliance and the EAC cannot be compatible within a °»no-war community.°…(*12) The proposal fears U.S. criticisms too much, and as a result it seems to have fallen into the usual trap of blindly adhering to the U.S. stance.
The 2nd item is that the proposal makes no reference to agriculture problems. I traveled in Yunan in China in 2003, and was moved to look at terraced fields even in the bosom of mountains, which made me think about common points on agriculture in Asia. But the proposal disregards this point. Human beings will be faced with serious problems of food and environmental degradation, the solution of which will be vital for survival. The situation will be the most serious especially in East Asia. Japan°«s food self-sufficiency rate has been consistently lower than 40 %, and in the 1990°«s China°«s food production plunged, forcing it to become a food-importing country. The Asian food trade has fallen into the red. The fear that the food situation in Asia will be in crisis very soon is far from groundless. The agriculture problems in Asia are very complex. I think we now should learn lessons from common agriculture policies of the EU, and formulate plans about common agriculture policies of East Asia.
The 3rd item concerns issues of history awareness. The proposal makes no comment on mistakes of Japan°«s prewar colonial rule, the Greater East Asia Co-prosperity Sphere, and Asia-Pacific War. During the meeting of the Council on East Asian Community, some argued that South East Asia, as compared with China and South Korea, was lenient in pointing out the mistakes. But the reality is that victims of Japan°«s mistakes are still living in South East Asia. Those people have not dropped °»Great Japan Empire°… from their memory. It is impossible to pave the way toward the founding of the EAC without raising history awareness officially as an issue, particularly in Japan. I suspect that some Chinese and South Koreans still have excessive anti-Japanese sentiment. One way to acknowledge sentiment and allow it to die out naturally is for the Japanese to admit and correct our incorrect history awareness urgently. Only with fair history awareness can a common identity as East Asian peoples be rightly established.

Reasons I oppose EAC
The above background makes it obvious that the basic contents of the proposal will probably be used as the basic strategic plan of the Japan°«s ruling elite who promote the establishment of an EAC. But the proposal cannot be determined without modification of the basic strategy leading to founding of the EAC. For whether EAC will be founded and in what form it will be created depend upon currents of international politics in East Asia, above all, outcomes of struggle for hegemony between Japan, China and the U.S.
But a basic outline of the EAC is visible today. I will go so far as to say that I feel that the economic situation in East Asia has already oriented the outline of the EAC. We should take notice of what is occurring in East Asian economy.
Economic growth in East Asia since the 1980s and China°«s gaining ground since the 1990s are conspicuous factors. Dr. Fukushige Kimura states, °»In fact, in East Asia an exquisite international network of production and distribution that we have never seen is being established.°…(*13) Yoshihiko Iwadare states, °»In a sphere with high potential growth of economy, fierce competition among Japanese, European, the U.S., South Korean and Chinese enterprises has been developed. Many Japanese-affiliated firms, mainly in manufacturing industry, have advanced to East Asia. They need to establish more effective and competitive setup by making the most of integrated local economy, and realigning production and sales system in the region.°…(*14)
A survey titled Study on East Asia Corporate Strategy by the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry says, °»Our corporations utilize existing assets such as production site and sales network in East Asian region, and emphasize most appropriate production, procurement and sales to secure proceeds in broader East Asia region. They also try to reduce intra-region costs and abolish barriers, including customs by forming East Asia economic sphere. More expectations are placed on Japanese corporations which in doing so, try to produce more profits as European and the U.S. firms gained big profits by forming the EU and NAFTA.°…(*15)
The above-mentioned is the reality of Japanese-affiliated firms. The case seems to be mostly true of Chinese- and South Korea-affiliated firms. In short, due to fierce corporate battles in East Asia, each corporation intends to establish most suitable research, production, sales, and procurement systems on a broader East Asian scale. For that goal, they desire formation of an East Asia economic sphere which they expect to guarantee complete freedom for corporate activities. Some of them at least try to share a small part of the benefit. Today as in the case of the EU, the regional integration hasn°«t been restricted to economic integration. Here lies the biggest ground for action by government leaders in East Asia, including those in socialist states, who agree on formation of the EAC.
If this analysis is correct, then the EAC might be considered to be a structure only to benefit multinational corporations. It is very clear what will happen in East Asia in the event of the EAC founding based on this analysis: corporations, after gaining complete freedom of action, will bring about more fierce competition between corporations and more infiltration of corporate activities into every field of society. As a result, the gap of °∆haves and have-nots°« will be widened, and human relations of citizens, our culture and ethics will be transformed by the logic and priorities of what will be multinational corporations. In short, these phenomena will make globalization, which we have experienced since 1980, accelerate and be complete. (*16)
I submitted a paper, °∆Problems of East Asian Community°« to the INTERJURIST, in which I pointed out seven reasons or criticisms, which explain why I oppose the EAC.(*17)
(1) The EAC will be a tool of multinational corporations to rule East Asia for Japan and the U.S. and others.
(2) Polarization of wealth and economic status of people will be accelerated in the whole of East Asia.
(3) Small-and medium-size corporations and agriculture will be undermined, and subordinate realignment of national economy will occur.
(4) The labor force will be realigned, and workers without rights will increase in the entire region of East Asia.
(5) Destruction of nature and environment in the entire East Asia will worsen.
(6) Citizens and people will be politically alienated.
(7) Traditional culture will be demolished, and °∆Asian-like°« will vanish.
Even now I don°«t think the above seven-item criticism is incorrect.
Some Japanese with liberal thought support the EAC. They say, °»We should have a community like the EU in East Asia.°… But the EU is for the benefit of European multinational corporations. I think the latest moves of the EU Constitution being voted down in some countries suggest that some European people said °∆no°« to this aspect of the essence of the EU. People holding the opinion of °»We need an °∆EU-like°« community in East Asia°… are wrong in that they misunderstand the essence of the EU. On the other hand, some are of the opinion that °»we need the EAC in opposition to the U.S.°… But nothing in the proposals to found an EAC assumes the opposition to the U.S. The premise that an EAC will necessarily oppose the US is flawed.

[In conclusion]
Some of my friends ask me, °»Are you absolutely against the EAC?°… I always answer °»I°«m not against the EAC in some form. I don°«t insist that we should not create any community in East Asia in the future. I°«m against the ideas of the EAC as it is now being discussed.°…
This is clear from the fact that many issues annoying us today need solution on an East Asia scale. Take the example of human rights issues. Each country in East Asia should conclude a human rights treaty with all the others. As regards human rights cases which cannot be redressed in each country°«s judicial court, the people concerned should be given the right to file a lawsuit with an °∆East Asia human rights court.°« In doing so, human rights situations in East Asia will remarkably improve. In fact, the European Human Rights Court has embodied this idea already and is very active.
If the EAC for the benefit of East Asian peoples not serving multinational corporations is created, it will be able to conduct these various activities on an East Asian level: to establish a human rights court, to exchange peace actions, to carry out activities to preserve nature and prevent destruction of environment, to invest on public works projects, to implement unemployment relief, to formulate a minimum wage system, to resolve history awareness issues and publish common history textbooks, and so on.
In firm solidarity with East Asian people, I would like to carry out these various activities ,before creation of an EAC, in connection with my opposition to an EAC designed to serve multinational corporations. In such activities, we will be able to overcome our inner nationalism, and be born again truly as an East Asian.
(completed on August 16, 2005)

(*1)My View on the Present Day Asian Economy, publisher: Iwanami Shoten 2001,p. 94
(*2)Hereinafter, unless otherwise specified, °»East Asia°… includes Northeast Asia and Southeast Asia.
(*3)°»East Asia°…in this case means Japan, China, South Korea, Hong-Kong, and Taiwan, and ASEAN°«s 10 nations. Also see Age of Economic Cooperation in East Asia, Watanabe Toshio eds. in 2004, publisher: Toyo-Keizai Shimpo Co.
(*5)See °∆http://www.ceac.jp/e/index.html.
(*6)(See p.40)
(*7)(See p.41)
(*8)(See p.42)
(*9)(at page 10)
(*10)(at and after p.42)
(*13)(See °»New Current of International Trade Theory and East Asia°… written by Fukushige Kimura at p.106 in No.14 issue of Bulletin of Institute of Development and Finance).
(*14)(°»Economic Integration and Strategy of Japanese-affiliated Firms°… at p.32 in April 2005 issue of Creation of Intellectual Assets.)
(*15)(at p.22 of the Interim Report of the study group, issued in September 2003).
(*16)(refer to What is Globalization?--- (Heibon-shinsho) written by Iyotani Toshio).
(*17)No.149 issue of the INTERJURIST published by Japan Lawyers International Solidarity Association, (See p.16 of the issue)