Report: Asia Requires Urgent U.S. Attention

Washington, D.C., September 10, 2008 — (A Mongolian version of this press release is also available for download.)

Top Asian and U.S. foreign policy experts urge incoming U.S. administration to put Asia at top of agenda

U.S. must maintain constructive response to China’s rise

The health of the U.S. economy is now tied to Asia in fundamental ways that, if not grasped quickly by the incoming presidential administration, could have unintended, adverse consequences, according to America’s Role in Asia: Asian and American Views, a new published volume of foreign policy recommendations written by 20 distinguished Asian and U.S. experts and released this morning in Washington. Although relations with China are generally constructive, the report states, the U.S. must, in order to minimize threats to American security and prosperity, maintain a constructive response as China continues to rise. Further, the report underscores the importance of responding to the “rise of the rest” by adjusting the membership in various international organizations. Convened and supported by The Asia Foundation, this landmark report is the product of a year of high-level, closed-door discussions across Asia and in the U.S. that addressed critical bilateral and trans-national issues in U.S.-Asia relations, including Korea, Afghanistan, Pakistan, energy security, environmental degradation, Asia’s regional alliances, trade, and investment.

Published on a quadrennial cycle, America’s Role in Asia provides U.S. policymakers with concrete recommendations on how to address pressing challenges and opportunities in Asia. Further, in order to put Asia on the party platforms for the 2008 Democratic and Republican conventions, advance summaries of the recommendations were recently hand-delivered to top foreign policy advisors to both candidates.

“The region needs urgent attention,” agreed Ambassador Michael Armacost and Ambassador J. Stapleton Roy, American co-chairs of America’s Role in Asia. “The most consequential emerging powers—China and India—are casting longer shadows, and America’s relative power is declining. The new administration must accord Asia the attention its intrinsic importance to us demands.”

The report is divided into American and Asian views, reflecting the thinking of some of the most accomplished U.S.-Asia relations experts in the world. The project’s American task force was led by Armacost, who is Shorenstein Senior Fellow at the Asia Pacific Center at Stanford University, former Undersecretary of State, and former U.S. Ambassador to Japan and the Philippines; and Roy, who is Vice Chairman of Kissinger International Associates, former U.S. Assistant Secretary of State, and former U.S. Ambassador to Indonesia, China and Singapore. The Asian task force was chaired by Ambassador Han Sung-Joo, chairman of the Asan Institute in Seoul and former Foreign Minister of South Korea; Ambassador Tommy Koh, chairman of the Institute of Policy Studies, Ambassador-at-Large in Singapore, and Permanent Representative to the United Nations in New York; and Dr. C. Raja Mohan, professor at the Rajanthan School of International Studies in Singapore and former member of India’s National Security Advisory Board.

“This report was prepared with the expressed intent to inform and influence future American foreign policy for the Asia-Pacific region so that sound, workable solutions to common problems are found,” said Douglas Bereuter, president of The Asia Foundation and 26-year veteran of Congress, where he chaired the Asia-Pacific Subcommittee. “A major objective of The Asia Foundation is to foster greater understanding between the United States and Asia, and we’re very pleased that our extensive relationships and unique access to a wide range of U.S. and Asian leaders has resulted in these important, timely perspectives.”

Among the findings and recommendations of the American task force:

  • Trade-related issues need to be high on the agenda of the new administration: namely, the restoration of fast-track negotiating authority, the completion of the Doha round, the ratification of the U.S.-ROK Free Trade Agreement, and determination of the weight to be attached to Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) in pursuing Asian trade initiatives. Neglect of these issues will deal a body blow to U.S. global economic leadership.
  • [The] approach to counter-terrorism in the Middle East and South Asia requires new strategic footing that neither overshadows nor underrates a host of other foreign policy challenges. The Global War on Terror was an unfortunate misnomer. It encouraged excessive emphasis on military force. It persuaded some that the enemy was Islam, rather than a few misguided groups within Islam’s ranks disposed to a permanent jihad against the “infidels.” We should not lump potential Islamist enemies together; the goal is to divide them, and deal with them in a discriminating way.
  • Energy cooperation. The high cost of energy is becoming a major threat to the continued growth and prosperity of Asia, just as it is elsewhere in the world. The United States can make a major contribution to containing these incentives for rivalry by encouraging policies that foster cooperative approaches to energy security. Most Asian countries are major consumers of imported fuels. All would benefit from expanded cooperation with the United States in efforts to persuade OPEC and other producers to expand exploration for oil and natural gas, to accelerate the commercial development of alternative environmentally-friendly fuels, to utilize existing sources of energy more efficiently, and to stockpile reserves for emergencies.

Among the findings and recommendations of the Asian taskforce:

  • The United States would be well advised to set a good example of upholding the very values it espouses. U.S. allies in the region are acutely aware of America’s poor image among their own publics and want the next administration’s foreign policy to pay special attention to public diplomacy. Both Americans and Asians will benefit if the political, intellectual, and cultural bridges are strengthened.
  • The U.S. should actively support a regional architecture in Asia. Bilateral relations are important, but greater emphasis should be placed on multinational diplomacy around political, economic, and security issues. This includes signing the Treaty of Amity and Cooperation (TAC), which, at a minimum, would allow the United States to be an effective dialogue partner with members of the East Asia Summit.
  • The new administration should work with Asian regional institutions to begin a dialogue on energy security and climate change — particularly in the area of curbing greenhouse gas emissions – and to bring the post-Kyoto negotiations to a successful conclusion. The United States must share its expertise in energy efficiency, including clean and renewable energy, carbon capture and sequestration.

The full report is available for download, as are overviews of the reports and executive summaries.

Download the full report, America’s Role in Asia: Asian and American Views.

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