Years ago, Israel expressed its desire to join the European Union. I was skeptical of it back then because of one reason: geography. Now, I am expressing similar skepticism on Australian intention to join ASEAN. According to Bloomberg:

Australian Prime Minister John Howard and Trade Minister Warren Truss will attend the second East Asia meeting on Jan. 15. along with leaders from the 10-member Association of South East Asian Nations plus Japan, China, India, South Korea and New Zealand. Australia will also push its application for permanent membership in Asean, analysts said.

Just like how Israel is not geographically Europe, Australia is not part of Southeast Asia.

This does not mean that I do not favor closer integration among nations of the world or within this context, between ASEAN and Australia. I am all for it. I would be delighted if free flow of labor and capital through the borders of ASEAN and Australia were guaranteed. Further, I do not deny that ASEAN and Australia share a number of similar concerns that demand close cooperation.

Yet, having Australia as a member state questions the basis of ASEAN: what is the basis of ASEAN?

I consider ASEAN as a regional grouping. As the name suggests, the region refers to Southeast Asia.

If ASEAN is to grant Australia membership, I do not see why it should stop with just Australia. China, South Korea and Japan should be part of ASEAN. Maybe, even India too. Hence, where would it end?

The admission of these states into ASEAN would possibly dilute the influence the original ten member states. I am sure these current extra-ASEAN states have their own unique interests and they could bring up those issues that at the expense of ours. Take what had happened at APEC for example: because of President Bush’s political goal, terrorism became the focus of APEC despite the fact that APEC was established as a trade forum. The trend was only reversed after several East Asian countries as well as those from Southeast Asia took a stand and said no to the US, saying that APEC is a trade forum, not security.

Furthermore, ASEAN is drafting its charter. The matter of accession will distract ASEAN from the exercise. If we as ASEAN are to admit Australia into the club, or even debate on it, let us do it after the ratification of the charter.

Therefore, I am currently in the position that Australia should remain in the next best thing: the East Asia Summit. I am saying no to Australia, for now.

6 Responses to “[1048] Of Australia to apply into ASEAN”

  1. on 13 Jan 2007 at 18:31 Shin

    Even if Israel is geographical SEA, i still doubt its acceptance into ASEAN by member countries. Maybe we should have a Northern Hemisphere Union instead of EU and ASEAN. But still, Aussies wont be able to join :-)

  2. on 13 Jan 2007 at 20:10 Abdullah Gul

    [ADMIN: suspected impersonator with nick GaryWBush, Musa, Gul etc. Kindly ignore: see ]

    Shin, you know what you are posting is off topic and nonsense.

    Israeli population comprises of 80% ethnic Jewish and 20% ethnic Arabs, so they can never be Europeans and so EU membership is out of the question.

    Can Turkey join the European Union? No since ethnic Turks like ethnic Jews are not a European ethnic group.

  3. on 13 Jan 2007 at 21:01 Hafiz

    Part of Turkey is geographically part of Europe. You might want to check the atlas.

    And I don’t think ethnicity matters. In fact, there are a lot of Jews in Europe.

  4. on 14 Jan 2007 at 09:21 sigma

    Hmmnn, a hard one this. I guess Australia’s inclusion into ASEAN would definitely boost trade between the nations in that region.

    But like you said, Australia is not South-East Asian. I am in Australia right now, and like what Dr M has said once, Australia resembles more of an European transplant nation in Asia than a genuine Asian nation.

    The thing with Australia and NZ is, like what Samuel P. Huntington has said before, they are nations which their cultures doesn’t match their geographic locations. Other ‘confused’ nations in the same boat include Turkey (Europe), Mexico (North America), and Israel (Middle East).

    I think for me, Australia and NZ can be given some sort of partial membership to ASEAN to gain access to their markets. But like you, I don’t think they should as yet be ordained as full members just yet.

  5. on 14 Jan 2007 at 14:32 johnleemk

    Maybe the solution is a loose entity (perhaps a free trade grouping) comprising ASEAN, Australia and NZ? That way, ASEAN can maintain its separate identity, without excluding important regional partners.

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