September 22, 2010
Today, the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) concluded a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with the Economic Research Institute for ASEAN and East Asia (ERIA).
The objective of the MOU is to strengthen ties between JICA and ERIA with regards to "strengthening the regional economic integration" of East Asia and ASEAN, "correcting economic disparities," and "promoting sustainable development". JICA and ERIA will exchange information and conduct joint studies.
Partnership with ERIA, East Asia Regional Think Tank
ERIA was established as a new international organization on June 3, 2008, after its basic concept was proposed by the Japanese government and was announced by the Chairman of the Third East Asia Summit in November 2007.
The objective of ERIA is to promote economic integration between ASEAN and East Asia, building on three vital policy areas: "promoting intra-regional economic integration," "correcting intra-regional economic disparities," and "achieving sustainable growth." The organization also supports regionally integrated polices through intellectual contributions such as study, analysis and policy advices. In more concrete terms, ERIA carries out studies relating to various policy issues based on its partnerships with research organizations in different countries, and offers recomendations to heads of states and cabinets in such venues as the Third East Asia Summit based on those results, thereby playing a vital role as a regional think tank and a public good toward solving those policy issues.
In particular, ERIA has played a central role in drafting the ASEAN Connectivity Master Plan, a specific plan for promoting ASEAN economic integration by improving connectivity including strengthening regional infrastructures, building and harmonizing the trade and investment climate, and strengthening human development and exchange, as well as in drafting the Comprehensive Asian Development Plan for overseeing the development strategy of the East Asia Region which focuses on ASEAN. Because of this, ASEAN and EAS member nations have high expectations for ERIA.
JICA has provided support in incorporating Japanese technology and expertise in various ASEAN nations in the past. With the conclusion of this MOU between JICA and ERIA, it is expected that the knowledge and experience of JICA will be actively input into ERIA's plan formulation and policy recomendations, and that trade and investment progress will be made in the region of Asia, including Japan.
Contributing to Regional Infrastructure in East Asia
The infrastructure costs for East Asia included in the Comprehensive Asian Development Plan (CADP) submitted to the East Asia Economic Ministers Meeting in August are estimated to be approximately 25 trillion yen.
With the understanding that the frail infrastructure and underdeveloped legal systems in Asia are the main hindrances to business activities, the CADP will build regional infrastructures while integrating physical infrastructure needs with intangible needs such as training to improve connectivity in Asia. The physical infrastructures will include roads, ports, and airports, while the intangible elements will include policy and organizational work such as improving the trade and investment business climate. This infrastructure work will be based on growth in the triangular zone comprising the Mekong-Indian Economic Corridor, BIMP (Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia, and the Philippines), and IMT (Indonesia, Malaysia, and Thailand). For proposals arising from the CADP, JICA will provide concrete assistance in project formation through feasibility studies, Japanese ODA loans and technical cooperation to the projects that are expected to be pivotal to regional economic integration. The realization of the CADP will promote a higher level of development in Asia, which is a cornerstone of Japan's "New Growth Strategy."
Recommendations on Policy and Regional Common Issues toward Regional Integration
ERIA and JICA will cooperatively carry out research on policy and regional common issues toward ASEAN regional economic integration, and it is expected that the recommendations to the ASEAN Secretariat and national governments based on that research will support that integration in terms of policy and organization. Joint research may include work on the effectiveness of standardization (institutional connectivity) in areas including goods distribution and tax systems, which are necessary for constructing a logistics network that traverses national borders.
The JICA Research Institute is already involved in studies such as "Mainstreaming ‘Human Security' in ASEAN integration," which treats critical issues that cross national borders from the perspective of ensuring human security in the promotion of ASEAN integration. It is expected that the conclusion of this MOU will further promote an exchange with ERIA in research, leading to presentations to the ASEAN Secretariat and national government on the results of this bilateral research.
Through strengthening of a wide range of partnership with ERIA, JICA will thus support the regional economic integration of ASEAN and the East Asia Region as well as sustainable growth in the region. A great deal of interest has been focused on how Japan will tie its own national growth with the remarkable growth of the emerging nations of Asia. The partnership between JICA and ERIA is expected to contribute to sustainable economic development in East Asia in general.