The final report in 2002 of the East Asian Study Group, established by the ASEAN Plus Three countries, was based on an EAS involving ASEAN Plus Three, therefore not involving Australia, New Zealand or India . The EAS as proposed was to be an ASEAN led development, with the summit to be linked to ASEAN summit meetings however the issue was to which contries beyond those in ASEAN the EAS was to be extended to.
The decision to hold the EAS was reached during the 2004 ASEAN Plus Three summit and the initial 16 members determined at the ASEAN Plus Three Ministerial Meeting held in Laos at the end of July 2005.
|First EAS||Kuala Lumpur||December 14 2005||Russia attended as a guest.|
|Second EAS||Cebu City||January 15 2007|| Rescheduled from December 13 2006.|
Cebu Declaration on East Asian Energy Security
|Third EAS||Singapore||November 21 2007|| Singapore Declaration on Climate Change, Energy|
and the Environment
Agreed to establish Economic Research Institute for ASEAN and East Asia
|Fourth EAS||Bangkok||December 17 2008||TBC|
Prior to the first meeting there was significant discussion as to which countries should be represented . At the time there were difficulties in the relationship between the "Plus Three" members (ie Japan, China and South Korea) of ASEAN Plus Three, and the perception that India and to a lesser extent Australia and New Zealand were present to balance the growing China power all meant the first meeting's achievements were limited. Russia expressed early interest in EAS membership and attended the first EAS as an observer at the invitation of 2005 EAS host Malaysia.
The next EAS was to be held on December 13 2006 in Metro Cebu, Philippines. After the confidence building of the inaugural EAS the 2006 EAS will help to define the future role of the EAS, its relationship with ASEAN Plus Three and the involvement of Russia in EAS. However in the face of Tropical Typhoon Utor the summit was post-poned until January 2007 . It was re-scheduled for January 15 2007, approximately a month after the original scheduled date.
The outcomes are summarised in the Chairman's Statement of the Second East Asia Summit
The EAS members signed the Cebu Declaration on East Asian Energy Security, a declaration on energy security and biofuels containing statement for members to prepare, non-binding, targets .
As to trade and regional integration the following was noted in the Chair's report:
12. We welcomed ASEAN's efforts towards further integration and community building, and reaffirmed our resolve to work closely together in narrowing development gaps in our region. We reiterated our support for ASEAN's role as the driving force for economic integration in this region. To deepen integration, we agreed to launch a Track Two study on a Comprehensive Economic Partnership in East Asia (CEPEA) among EAS participants. We tasked the ASEAN Secretariat to prepare a time frame for the study and to invite all our countries to nominate their respective participants in it.
We welcomed Japan's proposal for an Economic Research Institute for ASEAN and East Asia (ERIA).
The reality appears however that movement towards such a relationship is a long way-off. Lee Kuan Yew has compared the relationshiop between South-East Asia and India with that of the European Community and Turkey, and has suggested that a free-trade area involving South-East Asia and India is 30 to 50 years away.
The members of EAS agreed to study the Japanese proposed Comprehensive Economic Partnership in East Asia (CEPEA). The Track Two report on CEPEA is due to be completed in mid-2008 and at the Third EAS it was agreed this would be considered at the Fourth EAS.
As noted above the Second EAS welcomed the Economic Research Institute for ASEAN and East Asia (ERIA). It was subsequently announced that the ERIA would be established in November 2007 and confirmed at the Third EAS.
Myanmar successfully blocked formal discussion of its internal affairs.
The summit did issue the Singapore Declaration on Climate Change, Energy and the Environment.
The Summit also agreed to the establishment of ERIA and to receive the final report on CEPEA at the Fourth EAS.
The outcomes are summarised in the Chairman's Statement of the 3rd East Asia Summit Singapore, 21 November 2007
After the EAS was established the issue arose of whether any future East Asia Community would arise from the EAS or ASEAN Plus Three. Prior to the creation of the EAS it appeared that ASEAN Plus Three would take the role of community building in East Asia
Malyasia felt that it was still the case that the role of the community building fell to ASEAN Plus Three shortly before the second EAS despite "confusion. China apparently agreed whereas Japan and India felt the EAS should be the focus of the East Asian Community.
After the first EAS the feasibility of EAS to have a community building role was questioned with Ong Keng Yong, the secretary-general of ASEAN being quoted as describing the EAS as little more than a "brainstorming forum. Nevertheless the Chairman’s Press Statement for the Seventh ASEAN Plus Three Foreign Ministers’ Meeting Kuala Lumpur, 26 July 2006 said
25. The Ministers welcomed the convening of the East Asia Summit as a forum for dialogue on broad strategic, political and economic issues of common interest with the aim of promoting peace, stability and economic prosperity in East Asia. In this respect, they recognized that the East Asia Summit could make a significant contribution to the achievement of the long-term goal of establishing an East Asian community.
It appeared that over time following the first EAS the focus was less on whether the EAS has a role in community building to what the role and whether it was secondary to ASEAN Plus Three. By mid-2006 the Chinese news site Xinhua Net suggested the community would arise through a two-phase process with ASEAN Plus Three as the first phase and the EAS as the second phase . The China-India joint declaration of 21 November 2006 linked, at paragraph 43, the EAS with the East Asian Community process.
The concentric circle model of the community process with ASEAN at the centre, ASEAN Plus Three at the next band and the East Asia Summit at the outer band is supported by the Second Joint Statement on East Asia Cooperation Building on the Foundations of ASEAN Plus Three Cooperation which said:
III. Looking Forward to a Decade of Consolidation and Closer Integration (2007-2017)
A. Defining the Objectives and Roles of the ASEAN Plus Three Cooperation in the Emerging Regional Architecture
1. We reaffirmed that the ASEAN Plus Three Process would remain as the main vehicle towards the long-term goal of building an East Asian community, with ASEAN as the driving force.
3. We recognised and supported the mutually reinforcing and complementary roles of the ASEAN Plus Three process and such regional fora as EAS, ARF, APEC and ASEM to promote East Asian community building.
4. We reiterated that East Asian integration is an open, transparent, inclusive, and forward-looking process for mutual benefits and support internationally shared values to achieve peace, stability, democracy and prosperity in the region. Guided by the vision for durable peace and shared prosperity in East Asia and beyond, we will stand guided by new economic flows, evolving strategic interactions and the belief to continue to engage all interested countries and organisations towards the realisation of an open regional architecture capable of adapting to changes and new dynamism.
On any view community building is not a short term project. However after the second EAS the Indian Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh was confident that the EAS would lead to an East Asia Community. China had also apparently accepted this was the case
If achieved the Comprehensive Economic Partnership for East Asia (CEPEA) would be a tangible first step in the community building process. The second EAS seems to have increased confidence in CEPEA but is still only a proposal.
It has been suggested that as the EAS consists of an "anti-region" the propsects of it forming a community are less than likely.
The relationship between the EAS on the one hand and ASEAN Plus Three on the other is still not clear. As discussed above, some countries are more supportive of the narrower ASEAN Plus Three grouping whereas others support the broader, more inclusive EAS. ASEAN Plus Three, which has been meeting since December 1997 has a history, including the Chiang Mai initiative which appears to have led to the development of the Asian Currency Unit. This may be significant for those advocating a broader role for EAS in the future.
The tension between the groupings extends to the respective members' intentions towards future Free Trade Agreements with China and South Korea focused on ASEAN Plus Three and Japan on the broader EAS members.
The 1997 Asian financial crisis had demonstrated the need for regional groupings and initiatives. It was during this time ASEAN Plus Three had commenced and it was also during this time that the East Asian caucus was being discussed.
The EAS is just one regional grouping and some members down play its significance, the former Australian Prime Minister John Howard has stated that the EAS was secondary as as regional summit to Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) which has on his view a premier role . Not all members of the EAS, notably India, are members of APEC. However as the EAS meetings are scheduled with the ASEAN Plus Three meetings (they both follow the annual ASEAN meetings) and all members of ASEAN Plus Three are members of EAS the ability of the two forums to remain relevant given the existence of the other remains in question. China has stated its preference for both EAS and ASEAN Plus Three to exist side-by-side.
The relationship between APEC, ASEAN Plus Three and the EAS remained unresolved heading into the 2007 APEC meeting. Following the meeting Malaysian Prime Minister Abdullah Badawi described ASEAN Plus Three as the primary vehicle and implied APEC was the lesser of the three. At the same time a Malaysian commentator writing in a Singaporean newspaper described concentric circles for the three with ASEAN Plus Three at the centre and APEC at the outer, also suggested the Nikai Initiative, with its regional OECD like plans, might overtaking the remaining role for APEC.
The has now stated that it hopes to have some role in the future of the EAS.
The European Union has indicated it wishes to have a role as an observer .
The Arab League has held talks and expressed its desire to have a role as an Observer
However, ASEAN has decided to freeze new "membership" of EAS for at least two years .