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FACTBOX: What is the East Asia Summit, what is the agenda?

business Updated: Nov 19, 2011 08:58 IST

Reuters
Highlight Story

Asian leaders and their dialogue partners are meeting on Saturday on the Indonesian resort island of Bali. They plan to deepen ties but they also face several challenges, including territorial disputes as well as economic and security rivalries.

Here are some facts about the East Asia Summit (EAS) forum.

Membership
* The East Asia Summit (EAS) brings together the 10-member Association of South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN) and eight dialogue partners.

The politically and culturally diverse group includes the world's top three economies -- the United States, China and Japan -- as well as low-income countries such as Myanmar and Laos.

At last year's summit in Vietnam, leaders formally agreed to expand the EAS group to include the United States and Russia.

The leaders from ASEAN -- which groups Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam -- gathered on Thursday.

On Friday, ASEAN held a meeting with leaders of their big three east Asian partners -- China, Japan and South Korea (ASEAN+3).

On Saturday, ASEAN +3 are scheduled to meet with the leaders of Australia, India, New Zealand, the United States and Russia in what is called the East Asia Summit.

* The GDP of 18 EAS member countries combined accounts for about 56 percent of the world's total output and 63 percent of global population. Their trade constitutes about 44 percent of global trade.

* The GDP of ASEAN collectively accounts for about 3 percent of the global output, while that of ASEAN+3 accounts for about 21 percent of the world's GDP.

Mission
* While the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum, which met over the past weekend, focuses primarily on trade and economic issues, the EAS aims to foster broader political and economic strategic dialogue. It seeks to promote cooperation in political and security issues, boost economic growth and integration, and secure financial stability.

Priority areas of cooperation have included finance, energy, education, pandemic prevention and disaster management, and with the participation of the

United States and Russia, the group hopes to strengthen cooperation on global challenges and discuss rules on maritime security, nuclear non-proliferation, and human rights.

Agenda for 2011
* Maritime security will be front and centre when the leaders meet, with territorial disputes in South China Sea -- a crucial commercial shipping lane thought to contain valuable oil and minerals -- at the heart of tensions. Beijing wants to resolve the dispute through bilateral negotiations but other claimants prefer a multilateral approach, including an indirect role for the United States.

* Myanmar's long-awaited reforms will also be in the spotlight. Myanmar new civilian government, which took office on March 30, freed about 230 political detainees in October, but mistrust and scepticism remain about the motives of a government run by members of the former army regime. Diplomats are now watching whether it will release more prisoners this week, while

ASEAN leaders endorsed Myanmar as the ASEAN chair for 2014.

* Another focus is the role of the United States in Asia as President Barack Obama, the first American president to attend the EAS, pushes to reassert his country as a Pacific power. The growing rivalry between Washington, the Pacific's traditional military power, and Beijing, its economic engine, could complicate a delicate balancing act played by Asia's smaller nations.

* The euro zone debt crisis is not officially on the agenda but the issue is bound to come up on the sidelines.

* The leaders are expected to agree on so-called "Bali Principles", which call for mutually beneficial relations. Under the principles, they vow to enhance mutual respect for independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity, refrain from any threat of use of force against another state, settle disputes by peaceful means, abstain from intervention in internal affairs of another state, and respect human rights, according to a draft document seen by Reuters.

* ASEAN is seeking to establish an EU-inspired economic community by 2015 and they will likely continue discussions on "connectivity" within the 10-member group, meaning boosting physical infrastructure links, coordinating market rules and regulations and stepping up people-to-people contacts.

EAS and regional community
* The EAS started in 2005, building on leaders' meetings held since 1997 by ASEAN plus China, Japan and South Korea. But the group is struggling to forge a strong identity.

The United States through Japan lobbied hard to first bring Australia and New Zealand into the EAS group and later India, which shares security and trade concerns with the summit participants.

* The idea of a regional Asian grouping is the brainchild of Malaysia's former premier Mahathir Mohamad, who proposed an East Asian Economic Caucus (EAEC) in 1990 -- a notion that some pundits called the caucus without the Caucasians.

Japan sought to create a home-grown Asian Monetary Fund to help troubled regional economies in 1997 during the Asian financial crisis, but the idea was quashed by Washington, just like Mahathir's EAEC proposal.

Another push by Tokyo in 2009 -- to seek an East Asian Community -- has also faded after a leadership change at home and a decision to include Washington and Moscow in the EAS group.