Setback for "Asia-Pacific Community"
As the recession officially hits Australia, according to today's announcement from the Reserve Bank of Australia, plans for a new diplomatic structure for the "Asia-Pacific Community" will be put on the back burner.
Doubts have been expressed on creating a new diplomatic structure, citing "too much institutional clutter".
An in depth report, written by former senior diplomat Richard Woolcott, was delivered to the Australian government before Easter, and is believed to include feedback from Australia's diplomatic posts around the region.
Prime Minster Rudd will deliver the keynote address in Singapore on May 29, to a gathering of top-level defense ministers, intelligence chiefs and strategic experts from throughout Asia and the Pacific –the annual meeting is known as the Shangri-La Dialogue.
By Daniel Flitton, The Age, April 21, 2009
PRIME Minister Kevin Rudd's dream for an "Asia-Pacific Community" is in doubt, with a top-level report believed to show countries across the region have little appetite for adding a new international forum.
But Mr Rudd's idea to overhaul ties between regional nations could yet take shape under the guise of major changes to existing institutions.
The report — written by former senior diplomat Richard Woolcott, the man Mr Rudd dispatched as chief salesman for the idea — was quietly handed to the Prime Minister just before Good Friday.
A plan for Mr Rudd to outline the special envoy's findings to a key summit of East Asian leaders over the Easter weekend sank after anti-government riots in Thailand led to the meeting being abandoned.
The idea has already been set back by global economic woes and a lukewarm response from strategic analysts.
It is believed the Government is considering a major speech Mr Rudd is to deliver in Singapore next month as a chance to inject fresh momentum into the proposal.
Mr Rudd said in June a new body was needed to span the entire region and tackle the wide range of political, economic and security challenges. His idea was to draw together the various overlapping diplomatic institutions — such as the East Asia Summit, the Six-Party talks on North Korea's nuclear arsenal and the Asia-Pacific Economic Co-operation meeting — into a single forum.
After more than six months, 23 trips to 21 countries, and meetings with 300 regional leaders and officials, Mr Woolcott is believed to have reported that incremental change is preferred.
Analysts have pointed to the option of expanding the reach of the 16-nation EAS by bringing in the US, or enlarging APEC beyond the present 21 member economies to include India.
Lowy Institute East Asia specialist Malcolm Cook said Mr Rudd's concerns about the weakness of existing institutions had been borne out over the past year. Continued...
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