What can we expect from this year’s East Asia Summit?

A general view of the venue for the upcoming the 35th ASEAN Summit is seen in Bangkok, Thailand, 1 November 2019 (Photo: REUTERS/Athit Perawongmetha).

Author: Melissa Conley Tyler and Rhiannon Arthur, Asialink at the University of Melbourne

As ASEAN leaders descend on Bangkok for the ASEAN Summit, regional leaders such as Shinzo Abe, Moon Jae-in and Scott Morrison are expected to join them for the East Asia Summit (EAS). First held in 2005, the EAS is a meeting of 18 leaders for strategic dialogue and cooperation on key political, security and economic challenges. It brings together the major regional players — China, Japan, South Korea, India, Australia, New Zealand and newest members Russia and the United States — to meet with the 10 ASEAN leaders annually on the sidelines of the ASEAN Summit.

While the G20 and APEC summits receive significant coverage, the EAS barely rates a mention in most media outlets. It is hard to point to a set of concrete initiatives and impact it has delivered. Despite its low profile, the EAS has the potential to be a valuable forum.

It is leaders-led. As Nick Bisley points out, the EAS’ leader-level format accurately ‘reflects the reality that, in statecraft, there are some things that only leaders can do’. While there is now also an EAS Foreign Ministers’ Meeting, an Economic Ministers’ Meeting and other ministerial meetings, its main value is the leaders’ meeting.

It is inclusive. Hosted by the current ASEAN chair, it provides a voice to a diverse range of countries in the region, not just to those that have set the agenda in the past. The 18 EAS participating countries collectively represent 54 per cent of the world’s population and 58 per cent of global GDP.

It has a broad remit. Unlike some other regional forums, the EAS aims to cover political, security and economic challenges facing the region. It has covered many …continue reading