Thursday, December 3, 2009
Australia pushing for new Asia Pacific club
In spite of lukewarm response from neighbors, Australia is pushing ahead with its plan to build an Asia Pacific community that is consciously driven by the governments of major countries in the region.
Foreign Minister Stephen Smith in a dinner speech welcoming participants to a conference Thursday said there was not one single institution that dealt comprehensively with the issues of economic cooperation and peace and security at the head of state levels. Mindful of the reservations about the proliferation of regional institutions, Smith said that Australia was open to the idea of expanding or strengthening existing organizations.
The international conference “Asia Pacific – A Community for the 21st Century” opens Friday, picking up for the first time on an initiative Prime Minister Kevin Rudd broached in June 2008 for a conscious drive toward a single community to deal more effectively with the increasing and complex challenges facing the region, which is becoming increasingly integrated, economically and politically.
"This is going to be an Asia Pacific century,” Smith said, adding the challenges included the fight against terrorism, climate change, natural disasters and human trafficking, issues that he said warranted a coordinated regional response.
More than 170 people representing the government, academia and business will take part in the two-day conference. Rudd, who is scheduled to open the meeting, will have a chance to hear directly from them about what they think of his plan.
by Endy M. Bayuni Sydney