As some Americans sit around huffing and puffing and thinking small; as they continuously work on dividing and conquering the United States of America, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) met last week and made moves toward uniting socially and economically in an EU-style community which would encompass half the world’s population.
So as we continue to fight amongst ourselves in America and dither on the brink of insanity and weaken our social and economic infrastructure instead of working together to make America better and stronger leaders at a summit of 16 Asian nations met in Thailand and listened as the prime ministers of Australia and Japan set out competing visions for a regional bloc that would boost Asia’s global clout.
A central question at their summit was what role that the United States and China would play in any future grouping.
Not wanting to miss out on the potential power that the Asian bloc of countries have, Russia has applied to join the East Asia Summit – a group that includes China, Japan, South Korea, India, Australia and New Zealand that works in conjunction with ASEAN.
In November U.S .President Barack Obama will hold the first ever summit with ASEAN leaders as well as attending the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum in Singapore to keep America relevant in Asia.
Some countries want the United States to be part of a future Asia regional framework as a counterbalance to China’s influence said one diplomat.
Japanese premier Yukio Hatoyama pushed his plan at the summit for an East Asian community that could “lead the world”. He said that he would not want to see an extensive US involvement with ASEAN or the East Asia Summit despite Tokyo’s close ties to Washington.
Australian leader Kevin Rudd’s vision for an Asia-Pacific Community by 2020 explicitly includes Washington.
“Whether we like it or not, I think we could not avoid a US role because the US is a big country which has powers both in economic and security matters,” said Chaiwat Khamchoo, an analyst at Bangkok’s Chulalongkorn University.
“Some countries in the region are suspicious of each other so they want the U.S. to play a role.”
After the distractions of Iraq and Afghanistan, the United States has only recently re-engaged with the region, particularly in Southeast Asia where Washington’s hard line on military-ruled Myanmar kept it at a distance.
With Japan kept busy by its economic woes, China has boosted its influence across the region in recent years, signing a free trade agreement with the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).
India has tried to play catch-up, belatedly signing its own trade pact with the bloc.
Earlier this year US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton announced that the “US is back in Southeast Asia”.
Asian leaders agreed at this weekend’s summit that they need some new framework to hold together their diverse and sometimes fractious region. A closer community would help Asia capitalize on its relatively quick recovery from the global economic crisis and to cut its dependence on the West to drive growth.
Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva said in his closing remarks to the summit on Sunday that the “old growth model in which Asia relies on consumption in the West will no longer serve us as we move into the future.”
Americans — united we stand, divided we fall. Let’s stand together and build a better and stronger U.S. of A!