Committee: Asian Summit
Topic: Asian Union
For the past decade, economic regions in the globe have been consolidating economic and political power. These arrangements have been reached through many different routes: trade agreements, formation of international bodies, etc. The United States has established free trade agreements through NAFTA, and is seeking to expand those regional agreements through the creation of the Free Trade Areas of America (FTAA), which will include Central and South America . The European Union has consolidated its power in the last decade. They are now an influential trading block, and the Euro is one of the strongest currencies in the world. And, with the establishment of an EU army, the region's power will only grow.
As regions have begun to grow more power, Asia has started to consider its options. The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) was established in 1967. This group of ten Southeastern Nations ( Brunei , Cambodia , Indonesia , Laos , Malaysia , Myanmar , Philippines , Singapore , Thailand and Vietnam ) meets to deal with the economic and political policies and concerns of each member state. There have been calls within the Association and from non-members to expand the group to an Asian Union. Recently, China formally entered into partnership with the bloc, although it is not a member. Other nations in the region have been calling for the establishment of an Asian Union. The Prime Minister of India has advocated the movement. The Vice President of Thailand has also stated that the establishment of an AU is not only desirable, but necessary. Some scholars believe that the establishment of an Asian Union is inevitable within the next ten to twenty years.
Advocates of ASEAN expansion to an Asian Union argue it would have several economic and political benefits for the region.By establishing an AU, the economic powers in Asia would have more trading leverage to compete against existing blocs. Some argue that ASEAN, lacking any economically strong members, cannot gain this kind of power. By including more economically powerful nations such as China , Hong Kong, and Japan , they argue, their trading power would rival the European Union's. By itself, China has the ability to be a formidable economic power. They do, however, lack the kind of integration into other arenas that some of the smaller “Asian Tigers” can provide. Joining an Asian Union could also give China more political power.
Political and cultural integration would also result from an Asian Union, advocates argue. The Asian region is very culturally and politically diverse. As one scholar pointed out, the European Union got off to a rocky start because of such diversities. However, these differences were overcome and the European community was able to build a strong union. Some scholars think that Asia would go through the same slow process of compromise and integration.
There are several opponents to an Asian Union. Many scholars think that the cultural differences are too great, and that historical grudges would preclude the formation of a successful union. For example, South Korea is opposed to a Union that would include Japan . During World War II , South Korea was occupied by Japan , and South Korea feels that Japan has not adequately made amends for this. The individual and regional disputes might be solved or set aside. They could, however,
Furthermore, there is potential for power struggles within an Asian Union. Japan and China are two powerful countries. If a union were formed, it is possible that these tow countries would vie for power. China and Taiwan are also at odds, because China feels that Taiwan should belong to China . In any event, the power dynamic within the Asian Union could be unstable. Internal fights could inhibit efficiency, and slow down the Union 's ability to make certain decisions.
Determining whose eligible to join the Asian Union raises another set of issues. On the Asian region does not have definitive border. Is Pakistan part of Asia, or the Middle East ? There are also a number of former Soviet states in the region. Including these nations could be beneficial, but it could also broaden the array of cultures involved, thus increasing the likelihood of contention. Membership requirements in the EU are very strict, requiring applying members to meet several standards. Some of these standards include a stable government, and several human rights requirements. The Asian Union would have to come up with its own list of requirements for applying members.
So Asia faces a set of choices and questions. The first question to be addressed: is and Asian Union feasible? There are arguments on both sides. If an AU were to be formed, the structure of the organization would need to be defined. Who will run the organization, when and where will they meet? Should the Union model ASEAN, an already established organization, or the EU, a successful model of a continental organization? And finally, the scope and power of an Asian Union remains unclear.