Michalak Calls for More Asian Integration in Tokyo Speech
Security, prosperity and freedom are critical to integrating the Asia-Pacific region, and "advancement in these three areas is inextricably tied to each other," says Michael Michalak, the U.S. senior official for the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum.
During a speech delivered to academic, business and government leaders in Tokyo January 25, Michalak said the United States will do its best to build a sense of community in the region and is "a firm advocate of political maturation and evolution of political/economic institutions in the Asia-Pacific."
Among the chief threats to the region's security is terrorism, which "interrupts positive regional trends toward stability, democratization, and prosperity," according to Michalak. "By utilizing our collective strength, sharing information and applying technology to the movement of people, goods and money more completely, we can improve the free flow of trade, investment and travelers as well as enhance our security."
Michalak also emphasized the importance of globalization and free trade for the common individual in Asia. He cited a World Bank study that found “less globalized” developing countries had negative growth rates on average during the 1990s, while “more globalized” developing countries had per capita growth rates of 5 percent on average during the same period.
The United States has been working to liberalize trade both through the World Trade Organization (WTO) and through free-trade agreements, he said. (See USA and the WTO.)
Promoting democracy, the rule of law and human rights remain high priorities on the U.S. agenda in the region, Michalak said. "Increasing freedom and individual rights are also attracting economic opportunities and investments," he said.
Michalak said the United States has been "deeply involved" in APEC and the ASEAN Regional Forum, and is working to bolster those organizations' effectiveness. However, he added, even though the United States supports multilateral institutions that build "constructive relationships" in the region, it opposes a multilateralism that pits one organization against another.
"We believe the region and both pan-Asian and trans-Pacific fora would benefit from more emphasis on functions and less on process alone," Michalak said.
"There is no necessary benefit simply from holding more gatherings. The lessons of history suggest that institutions are formed to solve problems and tend to be most effective to the degree that they address issues of common concern. So what we want to see are multilateral institutions that first tackle issues that build confidence and maximize benefits of coordinated, collective action, such as trade liberalization, combating terrorism and corruption, bolstering energy security, and containing the spread of infectious diseases," he said.
Following is the text of Michalak's remarks
Embassy of the United States Tokyo
"U.S. Views on Asia Regional Integration"
Remarks by U.S. Senior Official for APEC
Perspectives on Asian Economic Cooperation, Tokyo
January 25, 2006
Let me begin by saying that I am delighted to be back in Japan. I spent a number of years working in Japan and have fond memories from those years. Thank you, Joanne for that introduction. It's a privilege to be here to address such a distinguished group of academic, business and government leaders. It's also a great pleasure to share this stage with such a distinguished group of panelists.
I have been asked to talk about U.S. views on regional integration efforts in Asia. With your indulgence, I would like to expand my topic a bit further to talk about U.S. strategic interests in the Asia-Pacific region and how regional integration efforts affect the U.S. policies towards the region.
First, let me stress that the United States is an Asia-Pacific nation. We are engaged in the region and will continue to be so. For the past 60 years, the United States has played a vital and active role in supporting the region to achieve its continuing economic and developmental success. Today, the United States enjoys many economic and political ties to the region. In 2005, U.S. exports to Asia reached over $200 billion, accounting for nearly 25% of total U.S. exports. The United States imported over $540 billion worth of Asian goods, over 35% of total U.S. imports. Many security ties with the region have resulted in a dense network of alliances and friendships. The Asia-Pacific region, which is becoming the center of gravity of international relations in the 21st century, is of large and growing importance to the United States.
Integration does not take place in a vacuum, without context or prerequisites. We see three major areas which are important to form the framework in which integration can take place in an environment of mutual trust and cooperation, these are: 1) security; 2) prosperity; and 3) freedom. Advancement in these three areas is inextricably tied to each other. As Secretary Rice told an audience in Japan last March, "Security shelters the prosperity that opportunity brings; security and prosperity, in turn, allow human creativity to flourish - but human creativity can only flourish fully in freedom."
Asia has not experienced a major conflict for more than twenty-five years, but challenges to the security of the Asia-Pacific region remain. One of those challenges is the spread of terrorism, which poses a serious threat to the welfare and security of U.S. citizens as well as those of our regional friends and allies. Both the United States and Japan have directly experienced the horror of terrorist attacks as well as witnessed the bombings in Bali and Jakarta, and the kidnappings in the Philippines. Terrorism interrupts positive regional trends toward stability, democratization, and prosperity.
Many nations in the Asia-Pacific region have contributed in the fight against terrorism. Today, the United States is promoting further build up of defenses in port and border security, and combating terrorist financing. By utilizing our collective strength, sharing information and applying technology to the movement of people, goods and money, more completely, we can improve the free flow of trade, investment and travelers as well as enhance our security.
Securing true peace and stability in the Korean Peninsula is and remains one of the central security challenges in the Asia-Pacific region. The DPRK's nuclear ambition is a decades-old problem, and its nuclear programs threaten its neighbors and the integrity of the global nuclear non-proliferation regime. The Six-Party Talks, as a multilateral diplomacy strategy, offer the best framework for dealing with this problem. Timely progress and credible breakthroughs, however, have been elusive despite considerable efforts by the United States and our allies. The United States remains committed to resolving the nuclear issue through peaceful, diplomatic means.
China, now integrated into the international community, must take on the responsibilities of a stakeholder in the international system from which it benefits. At the same time, the sensitive issue of Taiwan and cross-Strait relations has complicated security in the Asia-Pacific region. The longstanding U.S. position, based on our one-China policy and commitments under the joint communiqués and the Taiwan Relations Act, has been that cross-Strait differences must be resolved peacefully through dialogue in a manner that meets the aspirations of people on both sides of the Strait. To that end, the United States strongly opposes unilateral changes to the status quo by either party, and encourages cross-Strait dialogue of all forms.
Asia is a region that knows very well that its future economic growth is tied closely with free and fair trade. To facilitate free and fair trade, the United States is concentrating on opening markets, improving the region's overall business environment, and maintaining a stable macro-climate favoring open trade and growth. A free and fair trading system will allow a very broad and mutually beneficial economic and trade relationship among economies in the Asia-Pacific region.
Open trade not only levels the playing field but also encourages governments to adopt open and transparent rulemaking procedures, and non-discriminatory laws and regulations. Trade liberalization is also a pathway out of poverty and despair. A recent World Bank study showed that the income per person for globalizing developing countries grew more than five percent a year, while the income in non-globalizing countries fell a little over one percent a year. Traditionally, the United States has focused on multilateral efforts to liberalize trade, through the World Trade Organization (WTO). More recently, the U.S. has increased emphasis on bilateral free trade agreements to supplement multilateral negotiations in the Asia-Pacific region.
Open markets are meaningful to the business community in the context of a favorable business environment. The United States is working with partners in Asia to improve the business environment in the Asia-Pacific region by opening up civil aviation and telecommunications industries, improving intellectual property rights protection, and combating corruption and ensuring market integrity. The United States has also worked with national authorities and the business community to reduce structural impediments to trade and investment.
Maintaining a stable macroeconomic climate is also a critical element in advancing and maintaining economic prosperity in the Asia-Pacific region. The United States is working with partners in Asia to encourage prudent, sustainable fiscal policies, monetary policies focused on price stability, and increased openness to international trade and capital flows. The United States has also urged regional economies to undertake structural reforms that can raise sustainable long-term growth. As a result, interest rate spreads are down; there have been no major foreign exchange or balance of payments crises; cooperation among financial authorities has reduced the risk of "contagion"; and, among those economies with flexible exchange rates, volatility has decreased.
Establishing a stable macro-environment is also a priority in the economic development agenda advanced by the United States. The core principles in U.S. development policy include (1) increasing financial assistance to the poorest countries; (2) providing more assistance in the form of grants; (3) measuring the results of our assistance efforts rigorously; and (4) targeting support to countries that pursue pro-growth strategies.
Promoting democracy, the rule of law, and human rights remain high priorities on the U.S. agenda. The relative stability of the East Asia and Pacific region has showcased some of the most impressive democratic transformations of our times in places as diverse as South Korea, the Philippines, Mongolia, Thailand, and Taiwan. The governments in these flourishing democracies have become more accountable to their citizens. Increasing freedom and individual rights are also attracting economic opportunities and investments. The United States will continue to help enlarge the trend of democratization and more open societies in the region, through education and assistance.
U.S. Bilateral and Multilateral Engagement in the Region:
As I have said before, the United States engages the Asia-Pacific region at the global, regional and bilateral levels. The United States sees this engagement as a means not only to advance its policy interests, but also to build a sense of community within the region by promoting shared values in human rights, stability, democratization, free markets, and security.
On a global level, WTO has provided the best framework for engaging economies on trade and investment liberalization issues. The United States is actively working with various Asia-Pacific economies to advance the WTO Doha Development Agenda. We are pressing China, Taiwan and Cambodia to fully implement their WTO obligations, and support Vietnam's accession to the WTO. We are working to increase regulatory and administrative transparency in the region, especially China, Indonesia, and Korea. We will continue our work to reduce or eliminate tariff and non-tariff barriers throughout the region.
The United States has also been deeply involved in APEC and the ASEAN Regional Forum, and is working to bolster those organizations' effectiveness. In APEC, the United States and 20 other member economies are working diligently to facilitate and promote free trade, economic growth, investment and cooperation in the Pacific region. Last year was another productive year in APEC, reaching consensus on a variety of issues affecting economic development and trade. The Leaders issued a strong stand-alone statement underscoring their commitment to achieve a successful conclusion of the Doha negotiations and their determination to provide the strong political leadership necessary to move the negotiations forward. The Leaders also
- endorsed model guidelines on intellectual property rights;
- adopted a plan of action, known as the "Busan Business Agenda," to improve the business climate in the Asia-Pacific region in real, measurable ways;
- endorsed a strong initiative on "Preparing for and Mitigating an Influenza Pandemic."
- agreed to advance further work on reducing the threat associated with man-portable air defense systems, radioactive sources, and work to secure the global supply chain within the APEC region from exploitation by would-be terrorists; and
- agreed to intensify regional cooperation to prosecute and deny safe haven to officials and individuals guilty of corruption.
In 2006, the United States will once again look to advance trade, improve business environment and mobility, improve health security and emergency preparedness, and advance security within APEC.
The United States is an active participant in the ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF), and strongly supports its continued development. As the leading security forum in the Asia-Pacific region, ARF has contributed to the peace and stability of the region by building confidence among the participants and promoting cooperation on such vital areas as enhancing the security of Southeast Asia's strategic waterways, non-proliferation, and counterterrorism. The United States also has a growing relationship with ASEAN itself, and is developing a comprehensive Enhanced Partnership with that organization, which will help strengthen ties and increase cooperation between the United States and ASEAN's member countries.
The United States is also advancing transparent economic policies and openness to trade and investment through the Millennium Challenge Corporation. Millennium Challenge Account assistance is awarded only to countries with a proven record of governing justly, investing in people, encouraging economic freedom, and fighting corruption. Three Asia-Pacific countries, Mongolia, East Timor and Vanuatu, are currently eligible to apply for assistance. In addition, Indonesia and the Philippines are part of the Millennium Challenge Account's threshold program for countries that have demonstrated a significant commitment to meeting eligibility requirements.
Bilaterally, the United States is pursuing trade liberalization through an aggressive approach to negotiating free trade agreements. In the last three years, we have completed FTAs with Singapore and Australia. Negotiations are currently under way with Thailand. Our Bilateral Trade Agreement with Vietnam, which was signed in 2000, has been a catalyst for economic growth and development in that country.
Strengthening alliances with five treaty allies in the region - Japan, Australia, South Korea, the Philippines, and Thailand - remains a policy priority for the United States. Here, fostering a close alliance with Japan is not only of critical importance in the Asia-Pacific region, but also around the world. Let me tell you the depth of U.S.-Japanese cooperation around the world. Japan has been a major player in rebuilding Afghanistan and Iraq, and is the second largest donor in both of these countries, next to the U.S. Japan has also been an invaluable partner in combating terrorism, providing tsunami relief, preventing the spread of HIV/AIDS, and supporting the Asia-Pacific Partnership on Clean Development and Climate. Japan is a vital partner in the Six-Party Talks on DPRK. Our two countries also provide about 40 percent of all government assistance to developing countries throughout the world, and are working to improve the strategic impact of our assistance programs thru the Strategic Development Alliance, launched last year. The United States and Japan have a shared commitment to peace, freedom, and market-based economic prosperity. We believe these efforts in the global, regional and bilateral agenda are helping to facilitate the integration process.
Regional Integration Effort in Asia:
As you know, in recent years, with accelerated intra-Asian trade and investment, we have seen movement toward more pan-Asian organizations, such as the ASEAN+3 and, of late, the East Asia Summit that met for the first time last December in Kuala Lumpur.
The United States does not view such meetings as inimical to U.S. interests; we do not need to be in every room and every conversation that Asians have with one another. We do, however, want to ensure the strongest possible continuing U.S. engagement in the region and continue to believe that the strategic and economic geography through which Asia can best build on its success is via trans-Pacific partnerships and institutions. As the United States integrates its global, regional and bilateral engagements in the Asia-Pacific region to advance its policy goals, we also hope that multilateral structures in the Asia-Pacific region are strengthening existing partnerships and making each other more effective programmatically. As I mentioned at the outset, the United States helped to promote positive growth in the Asia-Pacific region for the last sixty years and we will maintain our important role in helping the region achieve its highest aspirations.
The challenges in and prospects for forging effective and enduring regional integration in the Asia-Pacific region:
Before I close my remarks, I would like to say a few words on possible challenges in and prospects for forging effective and enduring regional integration in the Asia-Pacific region. First of all, the United States supports multilateral institutions that build constructive relationships in the Asia-Pacific region. If multilateralism developed in Asia in a way that pitted one organization against another, or one group against another, neither Asia nor the world would benefit. Asia is fast becoming an important focus of the new global order, and its actions will have consequences that transcend the region.
With the burden of history looming over many bilateral relationships in Asia, multilateral institutions are critically important for making progress on important issues. The reality is that unresolved tensions among key countries in Asia, like China, South Korea and Japan, reemerge from time to time, causing disruptions in the development of relationships that are of great importance to the region.
We believe the region and both pan-Asian and trans-Pacific fora would benefit from more emphasis on functions and less on process alone. There is no necessary benefit simply from holding more gatherings. The lessons of history suggest that institutions are formed to solve problems and tend to be most effective to the degree that they address issues of common concern. So what we want to see are multilateral institutions that first tackle issues that build confidence and maximize benefits of coordinated, collective action, such as trade liberalization, combating terrorism and corruption, bolstering energy security, and containing the spread of infectious diseases. APEC is already the premier forum in the Asia-Pacific region for addressing economic growth, cooperation, trade, and investment. The United States is also pursuing cooperative relationships with ASEAN and within ARF to stabilize relations among diverse interests represented in the Asia-Pacific region. Again, I emphasize that the United States can and will promote shared interests in the Asia-Pacific region. The United States is a firm advocate of political maturation and evolution of political/economic institutions in the Asia-Pacific region, and will do its best to build a sense of community in the region.
Thank you very much. Now, I look forward to hearing from our distinguished panel and from all of you.