Australia PM pushes Asia Pacific Community idea

SINGAPORE, August 12, 2008 (AFP) – Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd Tuesday pushed ahead with his vision of an Asia Pacific Community but played down comparisons with the European Union following criticism from his predecessors. Speaking to diplomats, academics, business executives and students at a public lecture in Singapore, Rudd said his proposal, first floated in June, remained a concept at this stage.

As the centre of political and economic power shifts from the West to the Asia Pacific, Rudd argued it was time to start discussions about “regional architecture” that will cover the region by 2020.

Current institutions such as the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) were limited and the 16-member East Asia Summit excluded global power the United States, he said.

The wider Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum, which includes the United States, is confined to discussions on trade matters and does not cover Asian giant India.

Rudd said his proposal is for a mechanism that will allow regional powers such as China, India, the US, Japan and South Korea as well as smaller states to talk about a wide range of issues from climate change to security cooperation, economic liberali