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Saturday 19 Aug 2017 | 14:09 | SYDNEY
Saturday 19 Aug 2017 | 14:09 | SYDNEY

More reactions to Rudd's big idea

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6 June 2008 09:17

Yesterday I asked why Prime Minister Rudd had not enlisted two previous Labor PMs with strong records of support for regional multilateralism to help sell Rudd's new Asia-Pacific Union initiative. Well, here's my answer: they're agin' it.

Or at least, they have serious reservations, pointing to various objections to this proposal which were also made here yesterday, like sovereignty concerns and an attachment to existing mechanisms. All these concerns are legitimate and the project may yet founder, but don't write this idea off just because it is ambitious. Sometimes, things that seem impossible in prospect look inevitable in retrospect.  The PM is right to point out that Europe was not exactly a model of cooperation in 1945. Critics are pointing to how different Asia is to Europe, but post-war, Europe was (and to a degree remains) culturally, linguistically and religiously divided, and the continent varied widely in stages of economic development. Not that Rudd actually wants to build an Asian version of the modern EU. He explicitly denied this in his speech, though critics do seem to have latched onto it.

Implementation of this idea will of course be much harder than just proposing it. It will take a great deal of careful planning, so this is not a good sign:

It emerged yesterday that the plan unveiled by Mr Rudd on Wednesday for the creation by 2020 of an Asia-Pacific community was hatched at the last minute, triggering hasty drafting work in Canberra and a flurry of diplomacy in key Asian capitals in recent days.

Former foreign affairs department head Richard Woolcott, appointed by Mr Rudd as his special envoy on the initiative, found out about his new position only five hours before the Prime Minister's announcement.

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