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Notes on the European Union, ASEAN, MERCURSOR and the African Union

Notes on the European Union, ASEAN, MERCURSOR and the African Union

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Regionalism Regionalism Document Transcript

  • REGIONALISM The African Union (AU) The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) MERCOSUR (Common Market of the South)
  • Introduction Regionalism has become a common feature of international affairs. According to the WTO, by July 2005 only one country - Mongolia - was not part of any regional trade agreement. Regional peacekeeping forces have been active in some parts of the world. Regionalism has become in the last decades one of the forces challenging the traditional centrality of states in international relations. Distinction should be made between 'cooperation' and 'integration'. Regional cooperation has various forms: • Functional cooperation refers to limited arrangements agreed between states for areas such as transport, energy or health. • Economic cooperation refers to arrangements that perceive some commercial preferentialism but with no harmonisation of domestic rules or obligation to common action. • Political cooperation refers to mutual support/commitment in the implementation of certain values and practices within the countries. Cooperation in Foreign and security policy means that governments systematically inform/consult each other and try to adopt common positions in international organisations. None of this has any consequences for the international status of participating countries beyond normal obligations under international law.
  • MERCOSUR (Common Market of the South) Mercosur, the "Common Market of the South," is the largest trading bloc in South America. Mercosur's primary interest has been eliminating obstacles to regional trade, like high tariffs, income inequalities, or conflicting technical requirements for bringing products to market. Yet experts say Mercosur has become somewhat paralyzed in recent years, with its members divided over the future of the organization. Some countries, like Brazil, want to keep Mercosur focused on regional trade. Other countries, like Venezuela, which has yet to attain full membership in the bloc, would like to expand the group's mandate to political affairs. The creation of a new regional organization in 2008, the Union of South American Nations (Unasur), has raised further questions about Mercosur's utility. What is Mercosur? The Mercosur trade bloc's purpose, as stated in the 1991 Treaty of Asunción, is to allow for free trade between member states, with the ultimate goal of full South American economic integration. The trade bloc's "grand aspiration is to unify the Southern Cone and then all of South America in an economic bloc," says Katherine Hancy Wheeler, a research associate with the Council on Hemispheric Affairs. "It gives them more trading security." Mercosur's full members include Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay, and Uruguay. Venezuela's entry as a full member is still pending ratification by Brazil and Paraguay. Brazil is the region's largest economy with a gross domestic product (GDP) of over $1.6 trillion in 2008. The population of Mercosur's full members totals more than 270 million people. That group, including Venezuela, has a collective GDP of $2.4 trillion. It is now the world's fourth-largest trading bloc after the European Union (EU), North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), and the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN). Whether any reduction in poverty can be linked directly to Mercosur trade policies is unclear. However, Brazil's deputy UN envoy, Piragibe Tarragô, said in late 2006 that poverty reduction within Mercosur countries "has been remarkable." What are associate members? Mercosur's five associate members -- Chile, Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador, and Peru -- do not enjoy full voting rights or complete access to the markets of Mercosur's full members. They receive tariff reductions, but are not required to impose the common external tariff that applies to full Mercosur members. Of these countries, Bolivia is being considered for full membership. But the decision is complicated by Mercosur's history with Bolivia, as well as the common external tariff. Bolivian President Evo Morales has criticized Mercosur, saying, "What I've discovered is that the CAN [Andean Community of Nations] as well as Mercosur are tools that only benefit businessmen and wealthy people, instead of the poor people" (People's Daily). Brazil would like to see Bolivia accepted, in part because of their shared border, Brazilian Foreign Minister Celso Amorim said in a 2007 interview with the Financial Times.
  • The possibility of full membership for Bolivia may also prove problematic because Bolivia's tariffs are actually lower than those of Mercosur. "They'd have to increase those tariffs to join," which would have a significant impact on prices within Bolivia, says the Financial Times' Latin America editor Richard Lapper. He says Mercosur may allow some exemptions to Bolivia to remedy this problem, as Brazil is very interested in having increased access to Bolivian gas. Granting exemptions, however, would anger already disenchanted Uruguay and Paraguay, Mercosur's smallest full members, which have not been allowed similar exemptions. "Can Mercosur keep a straight face in exceptions to the common external tariff, but say it's not OK for Uruguay and Paraguay to negotiate a bilateral free trade agreement with the United States, since that would undermine the common tariff?," asks Agustin Cornejo of the Institute for International Economics in the Wall Street Journal in 2007. Uruguay, also angry over an ongoing dispute with Argentina over a paper pulp mill on their shared border, has gone so far as to sign a Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (PDF) (TIFA) with the United States. The TIFA sets the stage for future trade liberalization and economic relations with the United States. But signing a Free Trade Agreement (FTA) with the United States would violate Mercosur's charter, which forbids bilateral agreements with nonmember countries. If the TIFA does eventually lead to the creation of an FTA with the United States, the leadership of Mercosur would either have to disbar Uruguay from the bloc for violating the charter, possibly causing Paraguay to resign as well, or it could choose to rewrite its charter altogether, thereby allowing members to sign bilateral agreements with nonmember countries. What are the implications of Venezuela joining as a full member? Venezuela's entrance into Mercosur has caused tension within the trade bloc. Venezuela is philosophically opposed to free trade (Politico), according to analysts. Since Venezuela signed a membership agreement with Mercosur in June 2006, President Hugo Chávez has been advocating for a shift in focus of the bloc, saying, "We need a Mercosur that prioritizes social concerns. We need a Mercosur that every day moves farther away from the old elitist corporate models of integration that look for ... financial profits, but forgets about workers, children, life, and human dignity." In fact, says Lapper, a general sentiment within Mercosur against free trade with the United States is not wholly driven by Chávez's influence. Brazil and Argentina's concerns about trade with the United States are rooted more in economic, than philosophical, reasons. Moreover, Brazil and Argentina, are attracted by access to Venezuela's energy supplies and "they like the idea that they would have a Caribbean coast," says Lapper. Brazil has yet to ratify Venezuela's membership in the bloc. As of August 2009, the lower chamber of Brazil's parliament had approved membership, but it awaited action by the Senate. The issue is the subject of a robust debate within Brazilian policy circles. According to Matias Spektor, senior research fellow at CPDOC, a Brazilian research center, one group argues that the "reason we need to bring Venezuela into Mercosur is because we believe in regional integration. If we don't bring [Chavez] in, he is even more dangerous. Better have him inside than outside the tent." Spektor
  • notes that the current Brazilian administration supports Venezuela's membership in Mercosur, but the opposition party does not. From an economic standpoint, Venezuela can make a significant contribution to Mercosur. The oil-rich nation's incorporation contributed $331.8 billion to Mercosur's overall gross domestic product (GDP) in 2008. Yet Chavez has nationalized several industries (El Universal) in the country, affecting Mercosur member states, and he seems to oppose free trade. In fact, says Roett, "Venezuela is a full member without having met the requirements for membership." Does Mercosur have a political agenda? Mercosur made headlines in early 2007 when its summit provided an arena for heated debate as to what the future role of neoliberalism and free trade should be in South America. At the summit, which produced a communiqué in which Mercosur leaders pledged increased focus on human rights and democracy, Chávez called for Mercosur to be "decontaminated of neoliberalism," while Colombian President Alvaro Uribe argued that free market capitalism is the region's best bet for eliminating inequality. Despite Mercosur's prominence and potential as an economic entity, some speculate that its agenda is becoming increasingly politicized, especially since Venezuela's acceptance as a full member in 2006. "Mercosur is no longer about trade," Roett told the Council on Hemispheric Affairs. "The new joiners don't have much to trade, they are opposed to free trade it seems. The organization is more and more political and to some degree anti-American." But Lapper insists business remains its core reason to exist. "I think it would be a mistake to characterize the Mercosur bloc as a kind of anti-American bloc." He says trade-bloc heavyweights Argentina and Brazil continue to be focused on economic issues. How does Mercosur affect other regional groups? Because Mercosur's charter does not allow its member nations to have FTAs with nonmember nations, Mercosur members are not permitted to be part of the Andean Community of Nations (CAN), a smaller trade bloc which includes Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador, and Peru. When Venezuela joined Mercosur, it was required to resign from CAN, as Bolivia will have to do if it is admitted. Bolivia, however, has said that it will not leave CAN. CAN and Mercosur leaders signed an agreement to form a third organization, Unasur, in May 2008. Unasur is meant to encompass trade, security, and political issues, much like the European Union. Though the agreement must still be ratified by each signing nation, Unasur has held meetings on regional defense issues, including a controversial planned U.S. military expansion into Colombia (AP). Some analysts believe that Unasur could eventually replace Mercosur. Mercosur, however, played a key role in the failure of the FTAA (Free Trade Agreement of the Americas). Spearheaded by the United States, the FTAA was intended to unite Latin America and North America in one broad trade accord. The Mercosur members and then-autonomous Venezuela rejected the agreement at the Summit of the Americas in November 2005 over concerns it would lead to increased inequality in the region (Guardian). Proponents of the FTAA have not been able to make any significant progress in forging that deal since. How has Mercosur stimulated cooperation among its members? Agreements among Mercosur members range from debt relief (Brazil recently agreed to renegotiate Paraguay's debt) to trade deals. Argentina and Venezuela, for example, signed a host of bilateral agreements in the energy, industrial, agriculture,
  • and health sectors in January 2009. Chavez declared that Venezuela is ready "to supply Argentina with oil and later liquefied gas for the next 100 years." The most controversial proposal is for a Latin American development bank, dubbed "Banco del Sur," or the Bank of the South. Such a bank - proposed by Chávez in early 2007 and to be based in Caracas - will allow member countries to fund projects and investments without World Bank or International Monetary Fund involvement. Launched in December 2007, the bank will begin operating in the second half of 2009, with initial funding of roughly $7 billion. In May 2009 its members - Argentina, Brazil, Bolivia, Ecuador, Paraguay, Uruguay, and Venezuela - reached a final agreement (Mercopress) regarding the bank's functions, including its lending conditions and voting rights. The agreement is now pending parliamentary approval by the seven founding countries. Though some see the bank as an important initiative toward South America's financial independence, many economists and analysts doubt its validity (NYT). They view the bank as a political move led by Chávez, aimed to build up his influence in the region and carry out his crusade against Washington-based multilateral institutions like the World Bank and the Inter- American Development Bank. What is the attitude of the United States toward Mercosur? Mercosur's blockage of the FTAA and its general disinterest in trade with the United States has discouraged warm relations between the two. While the United States has not overtly criticized Mercosur, Washington views the bloc "as being an obstacle to the expansion of their trade in Latin America. They find it an annoyance," according to Wheeler. Roett agrees. "It's viewed here in Washington as an anti-American entity," he says. Washington would prefer to focus on shoring up its bilateral relations in the region. The United States, Lapper says, "is trying to set up good relationship with Brazil. They recognize that Brazil is a stabilizing force in the region." Lula was the first Latin American leader to visit U.S. President Barack Obama at the White House, and the two leaders have since met several times. At the Organization of the Americas summit in April 2009, Obama reinforced the U.S. commitment to work jointly to advance Western Hemispheric goals. However, a clear U.S. policy toward Latin America (PDF), including Mercosur, has not been yet defined.
  • The African Union (AU) The African Union (AU), formed in 2002 from the vestiges of the Organization for African Unity (OAU), aims to protect the security of the continent, rather than the sovereignty of individual states. Though the AU still is struggling to reform its governing bodies, it plays an increasingly high-profile role in peacekeeping. Most recently, the AU has sent peacekeepers to Somalia and Darfur, the latter in an unprecedented joint peacekeeping operation with the United Nations. Experts say the AU has a long way to go before it is fully functional, and express concerns about the burdens and expectations that have been placed on the body thus far. What is the history of the African Union? In 2002, the OAU transformed itself into the African Union (AU). The OAU, founded in 1963 on the principles of state sovereignty and noninterference, drew criticism throughout the 1990s for its lack of intervention as crises unfolded in Rwanda, the Democratic Republic of Congo, and Somalia. Frustration at its ineffectiveness led African leaders, spearheaded by Libyan leader Muammar el-Qaddafi, to launch the African Union, a body with a structure modeled on that of the European Union. Fifty-three countries in Africa are members of the AU (Morocco is the only African country that does not belong), which is headquartered in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. What are the objectives of the African Union? The African Union seeks to increase development, combat poverty and corruption, and end Africa's many conflicts. "The AU is the world's only regional or international organization that explicitly recognizes the right to intervene in a member state on humanitarian and human rights grounds," write Roberta Cohen, senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, and lawyer William G. O'Neill in the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists. The AU drew these guidelines based on the recommendations of a 2001 report from the International Commission on Intervention and State Sovereignty entitled The Responsibility to Protect. The report asserts that "Sovereign states have a responsibility to protect their own citizens from unavoidable catastrophe-from mass murder and rape, from starvation-but that when they are unwilling or unable to do so, that responsibility must be borne by the broader community of states." Experts say the AU's implementation of these new goals is still an aspiration, not a reality. Reforming the OAU is a "monumental task," says Robert O. Collins, an Africa expert and professor of history at the University of California, Santa Barbara, "particularly when you have many countries with lots of poverty and domestic problems." But regional bodies take many years to grow into their charters, and many have heralded the African Union's early peacekeeping involvement in countries such as Burundi and Sudan as important steps. Jennifer Cooke, codirector of the Africa program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, said in testimony before the Senate's African Affairs subcommittee that the African Union is still at a "fragile stage," but it "has begun to generate some early promising returns" (PDF).
  • What is the African Union’s role in Darfur? A joint AU/UN peacekeeping force was deployed to Darfur in the beginning of 2008. Much of the force's strength, about 13,500 soldiers as of July 2009, was already present in the region as part of an AU peacekeeping force. It remained in the region and was incorporated into the joint UN/AU force officially deployed in early 2008. That force is still far from its authorized strength of about 20,000 personnel. The African Union has had a peacekeeping role in Darfur since 2003, when it helped broker a cease-fire between the government of Sudan and rebel groups. It initially had fewer than one hundred observers in Darfur to monitor the agreement, but gradually increased its presence to include soldiers and police. By 2005, the AU had nearly 7,000 troops in Darfur, and in September 2006, with the Sudanese government refusing to accept a 20,000-strong UN-mandated peacekeeping force, the AU extended its mandate. Prior to the deployment of the joint peacekeeping force, experts had serious reservations about the ability of the AU peacekeepers to work effectively. "Everyone knows this has been a very undermanned, understaffed, under-trained, and under- resourced force," Cohen said in 2006. Now, with the joint force on the ground, experts say some of the same problems remain. While the force has a more robust mandate than the previous AU force, it still lacks important equipment and a critical mass of troops. The United Nations says its goal is to have 97 percent deployment by the end of 2009. Some experts say even once full deployment is reached, the troops will not be able to end the crisis. "Even if the force consisted of the finest elite troops in the world they could not have resolved the problem," Collins says. What other interventions has the AU mounted? The African Union has launched several other interventions, with mixed success. A March 2008 invasion of Anjouan, one of three islands making up the Comoros, resulted in the successful ouster of the island's separatist leader. As World Politics Review notes, however, the mission attracted little attention outside the continent. The AU's intervention in Burundi in 2003, in which an AU peacekeeping force of some 3,000 troops was deployed as a bridging force until a larger UN force arrived, is widely acknowledged as a success. In June 2004, the AU force was absorbed in a UN force of 5,650. Experts say the AU force was crucial to maintaining security (PDF) during cease-fire negotiations. However, the deployment of AU peacekeepers to Somalia in 2007 has highlighted the body's limitations. Of the eight thousand troops promised, only 2,700 Ugandans and 2,550 Burundians had been deployed as of August 2009. The current force's mandate expires in January 2010, and the African Union is urging the United Nations to take over. Some members of the UN Security Council have expressed reservations about such a deployment in light of the continued inability of Somalia's transitional federal government to improve security in the country. Given the short life of the AU and its limited experience with peacekeeping on the continent, most say the international community views Darfur as a "litmus test" for the AU's ability to promote peace in Africa. But "the AU requires extensive political and material support from the international community to deliver on its commitments to peace and security," writes Kristiana Powell, a researcher at The North-South Institute, in a working paper on the AU's emerging peace and security regime (PDF).
  • Slow decision making and the lack of flexible funding from donors such as the EU, G8, and the United States have hindered the AU's peacekeeping efforts. What barriers prevent the AU from evolving into a stronger institution? The AU faces tremendous organizational and financial barriers. It took many years for similar regional institutions in Europe, Asia, and Latin America to establish themselves, and the AU faces the additional challenges of endemic poverty and civil conflict among many of its member states. In addition, the AU relies on regional economic communities that are also weakly organized. "None of these states can really produce very much," says Collins, "They look at the bureaucracy and they are less likely to give." As of the 2006 Banjul Summit, only twelve countries had paid their 2006 contributions. Others say AU reform and peacekeeper deployment is also subject to the will of its strongest leaders, namely Muammar Qaddafi of Libya and President Jacob Zuma of South Africa. Cooke cites Zimbabwe as an example of a state in crisis that the AU has failed to assist. And at Banjul, leaders including Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe blocked the AU from adopting a much-anticipated democracy charter that would have strengthened the electoral process, ended military coups, and stopped constitutional changes to allow presidents to stay in office. How does the United States support the African Union? In August 2006, the United States became the first non-African country to establish a separate diplomatic mission to the African Union. The current U.S. Ambassador to the AU, Michael Battle, pledged to support (PDF) AU efforts to "advance democracy and a free press, strengthen electoral systems, promote peace and security and advance AU efforts to get African leaders and civil society to promote and above all, to 'internalize' universal values of human rights, good governance, and rule of law." Of the total U.S. aid to Africa in 2008-an estimated $5.2 billion (PDF)-no funds were specifically allocated to the African Union; rather, funds were funneled to peacekeeping missions and AU-supported programs such as the Comprehensive Africa Agricultural Development Program and the New Partnership for Africa's Development. "U.S. support to the AU is ad hoc, crisis-driven, vulnerable to raids from other budget lines, and uneven from year-to-year," Cooke reported to the Senate in 2005. The United States does support peacekeeping in Africa, but such aid is allocated on a case-by-case basis. In 2008, $96.4 million went toward the Global Peace Operations Initiative (GPOI), a portion of which supports the African Contingency Operations Training and Assistance program (ACOTA). According to the U.S. Africa Command, ACOTA is designed "to improve African ability to respond quickly to crises by providing selected militaries with the training and equipment required to execute humanitarian or peace support operations." The FY2009 budget include a request of $106.2 million for the GPOI, with an estimated $80 million going toward African security assistance. Between 2006 and 2008, the United States sent $908 million to the UN/AU peacekeeping force in Darfur (the State Department requested close to $209 million in the FY2009 budget). The United States has given over $150 million to the AU peacekeeping mission in Somalia, and in August 2009 U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton vowed additional assistance.
  • The United States "would very much like to see a robust African Union," says Collins, but the State Department "has never been able to construct a coherent policy on what to do about Africa." Instead, he says, it continues to supply money to individual countries that benefit its interests, rather than giving more substantial funding to a regional body like the AU. What are the key organs of the African Union? • The Assembly, comprised of heads of state. It meets at least once a year and is the AU's main decision-making body. Assembly members elect an AU chairperson, who holds office for one year. The 2009 chairman is Libya's Muammar Qaddafi. • The Executive Council, comprised of foreign affairs ministers of individual states. The Executive Council is responsible to the Assembly. • The Commission, ten commissioners holding individual portfolios who manage the day-to-day tasks of the AU and implement AU policies. The Commission reports to the Executive Council. The current chairperson is Jean Ping, the former foreign minister of Gabon. • The Peace and Security Council (PSC), set up in 2004. This body can intervene in conflicts to protect the security of the continent. It has fifteen member states, elected for two or three year terms, with equal voting rights. The PSC is also overseeing the establishment of a permanent African security force, the AU Standby Force. It plans to have five or six brigades of 3,000 to 5,000 troops stationed around Africa by 2010. • Pan-African Parliament, begun in 2004 to "ensure the full participation of African peoples in governance, development, and economic integration of the Continent." This body debates continent-wide issues and advises AU heads of state. It currently has advisory powers only, but there are plans to grant it legislative powers in the future. • The Economic, Social and Cultural Council (ECOSOCC). Established in 2005, ECOSOCC seeks to build partnerships between African governments and civil society. It includes African social groups, professional groups, NGOs, and cultural organizations. The 150-member General Assembly was launched in September 2008, replacing the ECOSOCC's initial interim structure. • The Court of Justice. In 2004, the AU agreed that the regional African Court on Human and Peoples' Rights would be merged with the Court of Justice. As of August 2009, the merger of the two courts was still in process. • The Financial Institutions. The AU charter names three bodies: the African Central Bank, the African Monetary Fund, and the African Investment Bank. Of these, only the African Investment Bank has been established (PDF), but it is not yet functional. It will be based in Tripoli, Libya. What is NEPAD? The New Partnership for Africa's Development (NEPAD) was developed by the five initial states of the OAU (Algeria, Egypt, Nigeria, Senegal, and South Africa) and formally adopted in July 2001. NEPAD's primary objectives are poverty eradication, sustainable development, and integrating Africa into the global economy. It focuses on establishing partnerships with industrial countries for increased aid, foreign investment, debt relief, and market access. In 2002, NEPAD was placed under the purview of the AU; a committee reports annually to the AU Assembly. In March 2007, NEPAD leaders decided the partnership should be integrated into the structures and processes of the AU
  • The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) is an alliance promoting economic and political cooperation by fostering dialogue among its ten members: Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam. Now experts say the group may pursue a bigger role in the region to help its members cope with the global financial crisis. As the downturn shifts the geopolitics of the region--potentially increasing China's sway as a source of capital--ASEAN and the United States may look to tighten their economic and security ties to prevent the rise of a hegemon in Southeast Asia, experts say. With Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's stop in Indonesia on her first trip abroad in February 2009, the new Obama administration signaled interest in boosting U.S. engagement with ASEAN. In Jakarta, Clinton pressed for stronger U.S.-ASEAN ties and said the United States would reconsider signing the 1976 Treaty of Amity and Cooperation in Southeast Asia (TAC). Though ASEAN has made gains in promoting economic and political coordination and fostering peace, the group has yet to grow into a major multilateral actor. Addressing Regional Security Issues ASEAN was formed in the midst of the Vietnam War in 1967, uniting Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, and Thailand against the potential threat of communist-led insurgency. It was intended as a security community, promoting social and political stability during a turbulent time, says CFR Senior Fellow Sheila A. Smith. In addition to preventing intraregional flare-ups, ASEAN provided a way for the countries to create "a voice for themselves in the broader Cold War arena so the Southeast Asian area would speak as one on particular issues," she says. To that end, in 1971 ASEAN signed a declaration that Southeast Asia was a Zone of Peace, Freedom and Neutrality. The resolution was intended as a statement that ASEAN countries refused to be included in Cold War dividing lines, says Sheldon Simon, a professor of political science at Arizona State University. The end of the Cold War left ASEAN "searching for a new organizing principle for security," Simon says. The ASEAN Regional Forum was established in 1993 to promote security in the broader Asia-Pacific region, but the body's contribution has involved more discussion than action, says Zachary Abuza, a professor of political science at Simmons College in Boston. Still, the regional forum has been responsible for increased transparency and defense cooperation through the publication of white papers, military exchanges, and the creation of a register of experts who can be called upon during conflicts. Because members' security priorities vary, military and counterterrorism issues tend to be handled bilaterally between countries with shared concerns and trusting relationships, like Singapore and Malaysia or Singapore and Thailand. The captures of several Jemaah Islamiyah operatives have involved bilateral action. In 2003, a tip- off from Singapore's national intelligence agencies resulted in Thai authorities arresting Arifin bin Ali, who plotted the bombing of five embassies in Bangkok.
  • Experts say it's not surprising that ASEAN has yet to foster a stronger regional security community. Andrew Chau of the University of Queensland's School of Political Science and International Studies writes in Asian Survey that ASEAN's consensus-based decision-making and policy of non-interference in members' affairs have created a "state-centric approach to foreign policy behavior" that undermines regional integration initiatives. These principles cripple even ASEAN's most ambitious agreements. For example, the 2007 ASEAN Convention on Counter Terrorism was intended to create a "framework for regional cooperation to counter, prevent, and suppress terrorism," but it contains clauses allowing parties to withdraw from the agreement at any time. The convention also states that it does not contradict "the principles of sovereign equality and territorial integrity of States and that of non- interference in the internal affairs of other Parties"--meaning the agreement, like other ASEAN statements, is only as useful as ASEAN members choose to make it. Human Rights Concerns The alliance's non-interference principle came under scrutiny when the group drafted a charter in 2007, which all ten members ratified by October 2008. Early drafts of the charter included provisions for sanctions for charter violations and a system of compliance monitoring for ASEAN agreements, but these elements were cut after deliberations revealed conflicting visions on ASEAN's continued role in the region. Experts say the concept of non-interference has become a tool for protecting human rights transgressors. Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, and Vietnam--countries with poor human rights records--balked at the proposition (Economist) to give the human rights commission established in the charter the power to monitor or investigate abuses (Brunei and Singapore also expressed reservations, fearful of opening the door to intervention in members' affairs). The commission was rendered virtually powerless, dismaying Indonesia and the Philippines, the last members to ratify the charter. The Philippines' senate minority leader, Aquilino Pimentel, who voted against ratification despite his country's endorsement, called the document a "sham"(AFP), while Indonesian legislator Sutradara Gintings said the charter's lack of protection for human rights indicated insignificant progress. Some experts, like U.S. Ambassador for ASEAN Affairs Scot Marciel, stress the importance of the charter for equipping ASEAN with new diplomatic tools, like a dispute-settlement procedure, and setting an ambitious goal of achieving economic integration by 2015. Others have less faith: Barry Desker, the dean of the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies at Nanyang Technological University in Singapore, writes in Singapore's Straits Times that the charter merely "codifies existing norms"(PDF) and in some areas even represents a step backwards. The Myanmar Question While the charter did not change ASEAN's conflict resolution tactics, the group's response to events in 2008 revealed willingness to use tougher diplomatic pressure on members. Such was the case after Cyclone Nargis in May 2008, when Myanmar's ruling junta allowed only limited international aid and insisted that aid be distributed through its military. In response, ASEAN called an emergency meeting of members' foreign ministers and issued a statement that "Myanmar should allow more international relief workers into the stricken areas, as the need is most urgent, given the unprecedented scale of the humanitarian disaster." While the statement "didn't quite condemn [Myanmar's] government," CFR's Smith says, it nonetheless "went
  • further than ASEAN ever had in the past in being critical of the internal affairs of a member state." After Secretary-General Surin Pitsuwan continued to press for cooperation on a trip to Yangon, Myanmar's ruling junta finally allowed the entry of international aid workers. At a May 2008 CFR meeting, Surin said ASEAN had been "baptized" by the cyclone, implying its response indicated a new, more proactive approach to tackling intraregional grievances. Still, human rights issues such as the house arrest of Myanmar's opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi continue to spark conflict (Economist) within ASEAN and reveal the limitations posed by ASEAN's requirement of consensus for action. Arizona State's Simon says member countries have their own priorities at stake in dealing with Myanmar's unpopular actions. Thailand imports natural gas from Myanmar to account for 20 percent of its electricity, and countries with imperfect human rights records don't welcome interference in their affairs any more than Myanmar does. Growing Trade ASEAN's diverse membership has presented difficulties as leaders plow through the "very, very tedious" process of dismantling barriers to trade, Surin told a CFR meeting. He said the process of creating one economic community was complex in an organization whose members' average per capita incomes ranged from $209 to $50,000 per year, requiring catering to a wide range of economic needs in setting trade standards. Still, annual trade between ASEAN members has grown from $79 billion in 1993 to $404 billion in 2007. Facilitating trade requires far more than lowering tariffs, says Amy Searight, an adjunct professor of political science and international affairs at George Washington University. In fact, tariffs are already low--averaging less than 2 percent for the original six alliance members under the ASEAN Free Trade Area (AFTA)--but Searight says the utilization rate of the AFTA preferential tariff is minimal. Because of persistent processing delays, the differences between the preferential rate and the countries' usual rates aren't significant enough to warrant the time needed to apply, she says. Government corruption and unreliable judicial systems in the region also create roadblocks to trade because they make contracts hard to enforce. Catharin Dalpino, a visiting associate professor of Southeast Asian studies at Georgetown University, posits that the global financial crisis could spur ASEAN to more aggressively pursue intraregional trade, to hedge against the possibility of reduced demand for exports from major outside trading partners like the United States. But she asserts that ASEAN doesn't yet have the legal framework to support a fully implemented free-trade agreement. "They don't have a dispute resolution mechanism nor do they have a central authority to take disputes to," Dalpino says. The lack of a central mechanism also means that ASEAN members may respond to the global financial crisis with measures to protect their own economies instead of effectively coordinating action. What's more, the global slump may prompt a wave of protectionism among member nations. ASEAN countries and their trading partners may cripple agreements by adding to the lists of products excluded from free-trade commitments, Searight says. If the 1997 Asian financial crisis is any indication, the current downturn will likely set ASEAN back in the economic integration process: in 1998, intraregional trade contracted by 15.9 percent, according to a 1999 ASEAN report. "Are they going to
  • look like the EU by 2015? Not even close," Searight says. "But are they going to look a lot more integrated than they did twenty years ago? Yes." Relations with the United States The United States is a major trading partner: ASEAN is the sixth-largest market for U.S. exports, and U.S.-ASEAN trade totaled more than $170 billion in 2007. Experts say U.S. companies stand to benefit if ASEAN creates a more unified market because streamlined product standards and procedures across countries in the region could increase exports and improve the performance of U.S.-invested corporations within the region. While the United States appears unlikely to enter into a free-trade agreement with ASEAN anytime soon, some experts believe Washington is moving toward engaging with ASEAN on a more multilateral basis. Marciel points to the creation of his ambassadorial post in 2008 as proof of U.S. interest in its relationship with ASEAN. The global economic downturn may also motivate the United States and ASEAN to pursue more robust ties. If China successfully weathers the storm and reaches out to its harder-hit neighbors--as it already does with aid, cultural diplomacy, and infrastructure development, Dalpino says--it will increase its already considerable geopolitical sway in the region. ASEAN is currently China's fourth-largest trading partner, and bilateral trade between China and ASEAN is expected to exceed $200 billion in 2008, up from $190 billion in 2007. But as this Backgrounder points out, experts say countries in the region are calculating whether the political and economic benefits of closer ties with China outweigh the military risks. ASEAN countries want the United States to pay more attention to new security trends in the region, particularly China's military buildup, and Dalpino says ASEAN may reach out to ensure the U.S. role as "security guarantor" if China emerges from the global downturn "looking like a hero." Likewise, a stronger China would give the United States an impetus to secure tighter diplomatic ties with ASEAN, given the importance of Southeast Asian sea-lanes for the flow of goods and oil, says Derek J. Mitchell, a senior fellow in the CSIS International Security Program. India has also asserted a more decisive presence in the region: it is expected to sign a free-trade agreement (VOA) with ASEAN in February 2009, after leaders met in New Delhi in January to discuss potential joint actions to cope with the global economic crisis. Though the United States ranks among the top three destinations for ASEAN exports outside the bloc, ASEAN periodically bristles at a perceived lack of U.S. interest in other aspects of the group's affairs. There is some truth in claims of U.S. indifference to the relationship, CFR's Smith says. "Many people in the American government find ASEAN frustrating to work with as a partner," she says. "The utility of ASEAN for America is questioned at times." Nonetheless, ASEAN remains the "go-to" for facilitating dialogue between major powers and Southeast Asia. "It's very low-key," Smith says, "but quite effective."
  • What can we make of regionalisation? Firstly, regionalisation is a truly global phenomenon. It is not the case that the entire world is engulfed in a single process of globalisation, or that the entire world is being divided along simple ideological or civilisational fault lines. Rather, different parts of the globe are looking for different ways to accommodate themselves within the globalised world order, and regional arrangements are one important way of doing so. There is thus no paradox, and even less a contradiction, between regionalism and globalisation. Instead regionalism is one aspect of the process of globalisation, and developments in one region inform and indeed feed into developments in others. Secondly, the trend in regionalisation has several trends, ranging from very loose and non-binding arrangements to the complex institutional architecture set up by the EU, depending on the scope and depth with which members are seeking to address issues of transnational governance. Thirdly, there is no single or simple path of regionalsim. The ways in which different regional mechanisms develop are contingent upon a multitude of factors, both internal and external to the region. Both the driving forces for more regional integration and cooperation and the obstacles which may limit those aspirations vary across the different continents. Regionalism as a global phenomenon may be here to stay, but so are the differences between the kinds of regional arrangements that are being developed in different parts of the globe. Exam Question: Explain the link between regionalism and globalisation? (15)