The Asia Pacific Agenda Tokyo Forum was held on November 20–21, 1995, to commemorate JCIE’s 25th anniversary. The forum, attended by more than 150 leading representatives of policy research institutions from Asia, the United States, and Europe, was designed in part to celebrate JCIE’s accomplishments over its first 25 years and to consider its future course. More importantly, the forum served as the founding meeting of the Asia Pacific Agenda Project (APAP), a multipronged research and dialogue project aimed at developing an effective collaborative network among policy research institutions in the region.
The session topics included the future of Asia Pacific after the just-held Osaka meeting of the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation Forum (APEC); the role of independent research and dialogue institutions in the region; a review of ongoing collaborative research and dialogue activities; a future research agenda for the region; and building institutional infrastructure through networks. JCIE’s 25th-anniversary reception was held in conjunction with the forum. The celebration brought together a great number of friends and supporters of JCIE from over the years, including former Japanese Prime Ministers Kiichi Miyazawa, Morihiro Hosokawa, and Tsutomu Hata. A conference report was published in 1996.
By Charles E. Morrison
Senior Fellow, East-West Center, Honolulu
Senior Research Associate, Japan Center for International Exchange
The Asia Pacific Agenda Tokyo Forum, which was held November 20-21, 1995, and which coincided with the twenty-fifth anniversary of the Japan Center for International Exchange (JCIE), provided an opportunity for individuals associated with key policy research institutions and foundations in Japan and around the Asia Pacific region to review important trends affecting the region and institutional directions and needs. More than one hundred individuals attended the forum, including twenty overseas participants from East and Southeast Asia, North America, and Europe. Many of the participants are or had been at one time founders, presidents, or research directors of their institutions.
This article does not attempt to provide a summary of the discussions. Rather it examines some of the main themes of the forum and their implications for the region’s research and policy agenda and for its policy-oriented research institutions.
The Significance of the APEC Economic Leaders Summit
Taking place immediately following the summit meeting of economic leaders of the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation Forum (APEC) in Osaka, the Tokyo Forum was well timed to review the significance of the regional cooperation movement and more generally of policy issues in the region.
Several participants had been involved in activities in Osaka as members of the Eminent Persons Group (EPG), as leaders in the Pacific Economic Cooperation Council (PECC), or as journalists. There was uniform agreement among these individuals that, despite the last minute cancellation of U.S. President Clinton’s attendance at APEC because of the government budget crisis in the United States, the Osaka ministerial and summit meetings had been very successful. The conflicts that had emerged in the weeks prior to Osaka over the comprehensiveness of the trade liberalization and facilitation efforts, the inclusion in the discussions of most-favored-nation commitments, and the degree of “comparability” of individual member’s liberalization commitments had been solved through satisfactory compromises. Japanese leadership, while of a different kind than that provided by Clinton in 1993 and Indonesian President Suharto in 1994, had been effective in moving the diverse membership toward an agreement. APEC had thus moved from a phase of establishing and filling out the details of a vision toward one of implementation. In fact, noted C. Fred Bergsten, chair of the EPG, APEC will begin implementation of the trade liberalization efforts in 1997, well ahead of the EPG’s recommendation for beginning in 2000.
It was also agreed that APEC faced continuing challenges in several areas, including the following:
- The Osaka consensus remains vague and not fully formed nor probably uniformly accepted across each of the member economies’ governments. Thus the interpretation of many of the issues dealt with—comprehensiveness, comparability, whether the commitments toward liberalization made in an APEC context should be extended globally—are likely to be reopened and debated again. As APEC increasingly moves into the implementation stage, the multiple interpretations and the contradictions inherent in a slogan like “open regionalism” are likely to come more to the fore. The relationship between liberalization at the regional level and at the global level remains to be defined.
- The economic and technical (development) cooperation agenda in APEC also needs to be defined. Japan’s Partners for Progress program was accepted, and Philippine President Ramos, the incoming APEC chair, would like to emphasize this pillar of APEC cooperation. However, the priority attached to trade liberalization so far has meant less attention paid to development cooperation.
- The APEC process still is largely confined to government bureaucracies. There is a continuing need to develop public constituencies and effectively harness the ideas and resources of the private sector, especially public policy research institutions, to the process.
The Broader Policy Agenda
APEC is symbolic of the change and economic integration in the Asia Pacific region. A broader set of forces are at work, participants at the Tokyo Forum agreed, that will seriously challenge policymakers in the coming years. The following three basic dynamics were discussed:
- Social and political change. Asian countries, in particular, are undergoing a change in the context of dramatic economic growth. These processes at the domestic level affect the relative size and economic and political influence of various social groupings. Many participants stressed the increased importance of domestic change not only for its own sake but for its influence on international relations in the post-cold war era.
- Economic interdependence. The growth of economic interdependence, which is closely related to social and political change, has imposed tremendous structural adjustments at the broader society level as well as for industries, firms, and corporations. This, in turn, has resulted in increased trade conflict and a need for effective rules of the game to deal with the many transnational issues arising from interdependence.
- The new regional security order. At the end of the cold war era, there has yet to be developed a new regional security structure in which the roles of the People’s Republic of China, Japan, and the United States are relatively well defined and understood. There has been a tendency to focus on China’s role as an emerging power, but China’s role should be understood as part of a broader regional adjustment process. There have been pressures for a withdrawal of the U.S. military presence in Asia, but many participants stressed the importance of a U.S. military presence to a balanced trilateral relationship among China, Japan, and the United States.
In each case, these changes are occurring within a context of global development and change. A full examination of the changes and their significance requires both nonregional scholars as well as well-grounded regional specialists. Analyses based simply on the region lack the comparative dimension needed to determine whether and to what extent the processes in Asia are unique, while on the other hand, the lack of solid area expertise has often resulted in misinterpretations by social scientists whose main interest in the area may come from seeking to prove or disprove a particular general hypothesis. Since the processes of change are occurring more rapidly in East and Southeast Asia than in other parts of the region or world, they raise special problems as the relative weight and influence of countries in these regions increase.
Within these broad thematic areas, there are many issues of regional importance on which policy-related institutions will be working. Participants mentioned labor migration, environmental policies, the political influence of new social forces, gender issues, equity issues, the mass media, managing the transition from socialist to market-based economies, changing values, nationalism, and religion. Beyond such issues of interest to social scientists and policymakers, it was noted, are basic questions of changing values and identities. Given the limitations of funds and human energy, however, the crux of the question for research institutions is how to prioritize.
Those engaged in academic research as the discovery of knowledge for its own sake would have a somewhat different set of priorities than those engaged in research primarily for the purpose of influencing policy. One way of prioritizing research for this latter purpose would be to give attention to issues that meet one or more of four major criteria. These are that:
- Academics believe an issue to be of future importance though it may not yet be fully recognized by policy communities. The identification of such issues or bringing them to the attention of policymakers helps to set the agenda in a foresighted manner.
- Underlying patterns of interaction or a broader appreciation of the basic forces or dynamics at work concerning an issue would help policymakers in their understanding.
- Misunderstandings or stereotypes surrounding an issue are particularly egregious and prevent cooperation or foster conflict.
- Policymakers themselves recognize an issue as important and acknowledge the value of and seek long-term perspectives from outside the government.
From the viewpoint of participants at the forum, the successful Osaka summit and the research and policy agenda for the region at the national, regional, and global levels underline the importance of strong, independent policy research institutions and functioning networks among them. The APEC leaders, for example, have relied on an outside body, the EPG, to provide ideas and direction unlikely to emerge from the bureaucracies. The existence of APEC itself could be traced to ideas circulating within the academic community twenty-five years before APEC’s creation and gradually brought to fruition through the dedicated efforts of a network of Asia Pacific activists largely drawn from the scholarly and business fields.
However, the political culture of much of the region, which emphasizes governmental prerogative, has been indifferent to or even actively hostile to the development of independent institutions. The demand for private information, except through bodies explicitly set up by governments, and the financial incentives through the tax system for encouraging private institution building rarely exist in the region. The head of a major U.S. think tank noted that the lack of such organizations in Japan is particularly acute. With Japan’s economic success and tremendous importance in the world economy, there are many regional and global issues on which Japanese institutions should be working closely with international counterparts, but it is very difficult for those counterparts to find Japanese institutions of sufficient size and capable of solid research. This participant contrasted Japan with the Republic of Korea, where a number of governmental institutions working on international economic issues have a substantial number of trained professionals and considerable flexibility in addressing issues in a manner similar to that of independent institutions.
Several participants suggested that independence should not be thought of in a formal legal sense. With appropriate understanding by government officials and sufficient autonomy through boards of directors that may consist of private individuals, public policy institutions can play a very constructive role in the development of policy advice. As one Southeast Asian participant commented, it is quite appropriate for governments to help provide the agenda for policy-oriented institutions; the key question is whether they control the research results. His view, echoed elsewhere, was that one test is the ability of the institutions to disseminate their research products freely. Another foundation official argued that even where legal independence exists, the key question is what an institution does with that independence. Does it provide truly original and useful products and do those products reach the audiences that can make use of them?
There has been a considerable spate of institution building within the Asia Pacific region at the national level, but the region lacks regional institutions. With the growth of transnational issues and regional organizations, there has been increasing recognition of the need for institutions in the region to work with each other in order to reach broader policy audiences. These networks have emerged only in the past twenty-five years and have grown even more dramatically in the past ten years as reflected in such institutions as PECC, the Council for Security Cooperation in Asia Pacific, and a variety of APEC-related institutions, including the APEC Study Centers. However, the Asia Pacific networks face a number of challenges:
- As one participant pointed out, the past decade was an “era of dialogues.” Most networks have been more engaged in the exchange of information than in serious research projects. The quality of activity in many of the larger networks is uneven since it depends on whatever national institutions have an interest in working through the network and on their funding and research capabilities. Leadership in the networks is often decentralized and diffuse, making it difficult to impose uniform quality standards.
- Another participant with high-level government experience noted that self-generated network input or reports usually do not have a high priority with government policymakers. Material generated by internal government sources and the media usually receive more attention. In his view, however, network groups help build consensus and often develop a supportive atmosphere for governmental action. He hoped that there would be more coordination among networks and a better effort to connect them directly with policy communities.
- Funding sources tend to be national rather than international. Therefore, it is often difficult to find financial support for activities related to the Asia Pacific community as a whole as compared to individual projects (even though they have a community label) or national projects related to this broader community.
- According to one participant, scholars involved in regional networks often are imbued with the impediments to change because of their long experience in dealing with the region. This participant suggested that one strength of having a nonregional specialist heading the APEC Eminent Persons Group was that this individual brought a vision less constrained by what most regional specialists would regard as fundamental realities.
- Many of the policy research institutions have excellent connections with each other and with central policymakers in capital cities. They often have much less connection with domestic society outside capitals and outside the mainstream of international policy. It was generally agreed that the research institutions need to reach out to their broader societies.
Building Institutional Infrastructure
Given the rich policy research agenda and the underdeveloped state of the region’s policy think tanks and networks, what can be done to deploy the available resources most effectively? One participant suggested three possible future scenarios for policy-oriented research: (a) continued ad hoc development of research institutions and networks, leaving things largely as they are, (b) stronger coordination of disparate activities, most of them taking place at the national level, and (c) creation of an Asia Pacific policy research center. He and others believed that the establishment of a major regional center lacks feasibility, but that it would also be suicidal to leave things as they are.
Caution toward trying to create a major new regional institution was echoed by others. One American participant produced a checklist of aspects that must be present when creating an institution, including defining your niche or “domain” of research, understanding your audience, and developing an effective approach to research and dissemination. This experienced participant also cautioned that some guarantee of multiyear funding is almost a requirement.
It was generally recognized that achieving stronger coordination among research institutions would be difficult because of funding and human resource limitations, but several suggestions along this line were mentioned. One participant thought that it would be useful to initiate a sort of “peer review” process by which participants in one professional association or an international organization would review policy research projects both in the planning stage and in the publication stage. Another suggested that a single institution might take on such tasks as monitoring research and maintaining a clearinghouse for information, identifying research gaps and encouraging others to fill them, and providing a newsletter including such items as funding possibilities. This participant felt that JCIE would be an ideal institution for carrying out these functions as well as conducting substantive research itself, but cautioned that other institutions would have to help.
It was also noted that in the long run, the development of the demand side for policy materials will probably be a greater determinant of the future of the region’s research institutions. Some felt encouraged that governments by necessity were increasingly recognizing the benefit of policy studies from outside the official bureaucracy. But, as one Japanese participant put it, there is still a basic mentality that such institutions are valuable mainly for their public relations worth. Fortunately, this is changing.
Leadership is another important and almost wholly unpredictable factor. Basic research in Asia is usually not linked to policy advice. Domestic analysis is usually not well linked to international policy-making. Relevant audiences—politicians, corporate CEOs—are usually not closely connected with the region’s research institutions or tend to have an almost exclusive relationship with only one institution.
Finally, training is another essential activity. It was generally agreed that policy institutions have to define the scope of their educational activity carefully. They can easily become overloaded with what is essentially very labor-intensive activity. Research experience as a younger, perhaps postdoctoral professional can be particularly valuable, and networks provide opportunities to exchange personnel for this kind of purpose.
A Continuing Forum
All agreed that the Tokyo Forum served a valuable function in providing a venue for research directors to exchange information and ideas. It was noted that the Asia Pacific region does not now have a regular forum for exchange among research directors. If the Tokyo Forum became an annual event, hosted alternately by different research institutions, this would increase the information flow among institutions and allow their key research personnel and foundation colleagues to review research priorities and institutional needs on a regular basis. Meetings around specific projects or issues are no substitute for meetings on overall research priorities, it was emphasized, because they do not examine institutional needs nor trade-offs in the overall use of resources.
A regular forum would also provide good opportunities for smaller side meetings on specific projects or topical areas and perhaps help avoid duplicative research or dialogue projects. Finally, such a forum could draw attention to the important role that the independent policy research sector can make to informed policy-making and public awareness of policy issues. This need for this sector can only grow with the deepening complexity of the issues and the increased impact of public and political opinion in the policy-making process.
Monday, November 20
Session I: The Future of the Asia Pacific Region After the Osaka APEC Meeting
Moderator: • Tadashi Yamamoto, President, Japan Center for International Exchange
Panelists: • Jusuf Wanandi, Chairman, Supervisory Board, Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) • Thierry de Monbrial, Director, French Institute for International Relations • Wang Jisi, Director, Institute of American Studies, Chinese Academy of Social Sciences • Yoichi Funabashi, Bureau Chief, American General Bureau, The Asahi Shimbun • C. Fred Bergsten, Director, Institute for International Economics (IIE)
Session II: Role of Independent Research and Dialogue Institutions in the Future of the Asia Pacific Region
Moderator: • Tadashi Yamamoto Panelists: • Colin Campbell, President, Rockefeller Brothers Fund, Inc. • Chan Heng Chee, Director, Institute of Southeast Asian Studies (ISEAS) • Han Sung Joo, President, Ilmin International Relations Institute, Korea University • Atsushi Shimokobe, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, The Tokio Marine Research Institute
Reception to Celebrate the 25th Anniversary of JCIE
Tuesday, November 21
Session III: Review of On-Going Collaborative Research and Dialogue Activities in Asia Pacific
Moderator: Peter Geithner
Panelists: • Charles Morrison, Senior Fellow, East-West Center, Hawaii; Senior Research Associate, Japan Center for International Exchange • Paul Evans, Director, Joint Center for Asia Pacific Studies, University of Toronto-York University • Hadi Soesastro, Executive Director, Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS)
Session IV: Future Research Agenda for the Region
Moderator: Bruce MacLaury
Panelists: • Gerald Curtis, Professor of Political Science, East Asian Institute, Columbia University • Chan Heng Chee • Jesus Estanislao, President, University of Asia and the Pacific • Yoichi Funabashi
Session V: Building Institutional Infrastructure: Organizations and Networks
Moderator: Tadashi Yamamoto
Panelists: • Bruce MacLaury, Former President, The Brookings Institution • Suchit Bunbongkarn, Chairman, Institute of Security and International Studies; Professor of Political Science, Chulalongkorn University • Jusuf Wanandi
Terrance B. Adamson
Chairman, The Asia Foundation
C. Fred Bergsten
Director, Institute for International Economics (IIE)
Colin G. Campbell
President, Rockefeller Brothers Fund, Inc.
Chan Heng Chee
Director, Institute of Southeast Asian Studies (ISEAS)
Gerald L. Curtis
Professor of Political Science, East Asian Institute, Columbia University
Jesus P. Estanislao
President, University of Asia and the Pacific
Director, Joint Center for Asia Pacific Studies, University of Toronto-York University
Peter F. Geithner
Director of Asia Programs, The Ford Foundation
Han Sung Joo
President, Ilmin International Relations Institute, Korea University
Abraham F. Lowenthal
President, Pacific Council on International Policy
Bruce K. MacLaury
Former President, The Brookings Institution
Thierry de Montbrial
Director, French Institute for International Relations
Charles E. Morrison
Senior Fellow, East-West Center, Hawaii; Senior Research Associate, Japan Center for International Exchange
Shin Myung Soon
Deputy Director, Institute of East and West Studies, Professor of Political Science, Yonsei University
Executive Director, Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS)
Chairman, Institute of Security and International Studies; Professor of Political Science, Chulalongkorn University
Chairman, Supervisory Board, Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS)
Director, Institute of American Studies, Chinese Academy of Social Sciences
Consultant of NGOs; Researcher, Chinese Academy of Social Sciences
Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, Dentsu Institute for Human Studies
Bureau Chief, American General Bureau, The Asahi Shimbun
Special Advisor to the Chairman, The Nippon Foundation
Chairman, NLI Research Institute
Professor, Law Department, Kobe University
President, Sasakawa Peace Foundation
Director, International Cooperation Department, National Institute for Research Advancement
Chairman, International Development Center of Japan
President, New National Theatre Foundation
Honorary Chairman, Japan Research Institute
Deputy Chief Editorial Writer, The Nihon Keizai Shimbun
President, Japan Center for Economic Research
Managing Director, The Toyota Foundation
Senior Executive Director, The International House of Japan
Director, First Research Department, National Institute for Defense Studies
Managing Director, Asia Center, The Japan Foundation
President, Asia Pacific Association of Japan
Senior Vice President, The Japan Foundation
Executive Advisor, Institute for International Policy Studies
Research Director, Institute for International Policy Studies
Executive Director, Global Industrial and Social Progress Research Institute (GISPRI)
Director, East-West Seminar
Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, The Tokio Marine Research Institute
Program Director, The Sasakawa Peace Foundation
Chief Commentator, Japan Broadcasting Corporation
Editorial Writer, The Mainichi Shimbun
Professor, Keio University
President, Japan Center for International Exchange
Executive Director, Association for Promotion of International Cooperation (APIC)