The Asia Pacific region, with its dynamic economy and rich cultural diversity, is growing rapidly in significance and is set to play a critical and important role in the world as the 21st century unfolds. A key factor in its success will lie in the capacity and willingness of the region’s countries to co-operate with one another across a wide range of activities. This book, a joint venture between the OECD’s International Futures Programme and the Bob Hawke Prime Ministerial Centre at the University of South Australia, explores the prospects for deeper integration in the region and examines some of the key challenges and opportunities that lie ahead.
For many observers of the world economy, the 21st century will belong to the Asia Pacific region. The sheer dynamism of its peoples and its huge economic and technological potential do indeed bode well for the future. At the same time it is a highly diverse region, and although interdependence has increased in recent years – driven primarily by market forces – there is room for further progress. The pace towards greater interchange may now be gathering speed, as countries in the region show growing interest in, and place greater emphasis on, more formal co-operation.
Against this backdrop, the Bob Hawke Prime Ministerial Centre at the University of South Australia was intending to host a Symposium on Regional Integration Issues in the Asia Pacific Region in March 2004. It was to be organised in collaboration with the OECD’s International Futures Programme. The aim was to bring together the most influential practitioners, policy makers, strategists and thinkers in the region to consider, over two days, the critical issues affecting the outlook for regional integration across a number of broad fronts. The Symposium was to be co-chaired by The Hon Bob Hawke, former Prime Minister of Australia, and Michael Oborne, Director of the OECD International Futures Programme. Generous sponsorship was pledged by both Mitsubishi Australia and the South Australian Government to support the meeting.
Unfortunately, it became clear that the Symposium was ill-timed. A combination of events – SARS, avian flu and terrorist attacks – seriously unsettled the region and made it impossible for a number of critical contributors to attend the meeting. By that time, however, a very substantial set of Symposium presentations had already been prepared, and the decision was taken to publish the papers for the benefit of global scholarship and regional understanding.
This book brings together revised versions of those contributions. They offer valuable insights from well-known international experts into the future trajectory, shape and structure of the integration process in the Asia Pacific region. They describe the huge challenges facing the region, set the global context, and analyse the institutional path towards integration that various key sectors – trade, transport, education, health, environment and security – are likely to take. Many of the contributions have been updated, while others (such as the keynote speech Mike Moore was to have presented) remain largely unaltered so as to provide a sense of the intended atmosphere of the occasion. The book is a joint OECD/Hawke Centre publication.