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Jakarta Post

Cross-Pacific '€˜Asianization'€™ through PECC meeting

  • Djisman S. Simandjuntak

    The Jakarta Post

Jakarta   /   Fri, May 31, 2013   /  12:22 pm

In a recent study, Quamrul Ashraf and Oded Galor reported hump-shaped effects of heterozygosity (having dissimilar pairs of genes for any hereditary characteristic) on economic development, finding that too little of it or too much of it is associated with underdevelopment. Intermediate heterozygosity is found to correlate with the most advanced development.

Intriguing questions arise from these findings. How can a country arrive at an intermediate level of heterozygosity? The most obvious answer is migration. With it, zygosity is shuffled.

Second, one can also hypothesize along the same line that an intermediate level of multiculturalism or '€œheteromemetisity'€ in Richard Dawkin'€™s terms is associated with advanced development.

While meiosis is indispensable for a changing zygosity, multiculturalism can change through a myriad of mechanisms.

One of them is cooperation, which people like Matt Ridley consider the most important engine of progression in human history in contrast to competition that in many cases end up in with no result. Our current epoch should perhaps be referred to as the epoch of cooperation.

Countless institutions, both large and small, attempt to advance seamless cooperation across different tribes, nations and continents with amazing outcomes in the form of positive results in human progress.

Cooperation needs promotion. The Pacific Economic Cooperation Council (PECC) is an example of an organization that has been successful in promoting cooperation in a seemingly chaotic environment.

Convened for the first time in Australia in 1980, it aided in the formation of APEC. It plans to hold its 2013 general meeting in Vancouver, Canada, on June 3-5 .

By hosting the general meeting, Canada declares its intention to rediscover Asia. Given a quasi steady-state development in the most advanced countries of western Europe and North America '€œAsianization'€ has become a universal imperative.

Asia has the highest birthrate, it is also where the largest portion of world income is earned and spent, and the largest movement of export and import goods. However, Asia is by no means heaven, but the rise of Asia is one of the most exciting developments in the world today.

Canada is a large and advanced economy, belonging to the G7. Although, it is underrepresented in Asia. Only 11.5 percent of its exports go to Asia. It receives less than 11 percent of Asian exports.

Of the outward stock of Canada'€™s direct foreign investment only 9.7 percent is hosted in Asia. These numbers clearly point to a pressing need for diversification, which adds to stability and, as indicated earlier, creativity and innovation. In designing and carrying out such diversification Canada can count on Asian migrants who lately make up the largest flow of migrants to Canada.

The Vancouver General Meeting of PECC has an agenda that reflects contemporary human predicament. It seeks to persuade leaders of the region on the need to take up financial governance into their meeting in Bali in October this year, to reignite the Doha Development Agenda of the WTO which is going to stage ministerial meetings in Bali in December this year, to urge ministers to consolidate the messy regionalism in the Asia Pacific with the Bogor Go als in mind, to agree on an outcome-based Economic and Technical Cooperation (Ecotech) with a view to enabling less developed economies to produce and bring into commerce tradable goods and services on a mutually beneficial basis, to push progress in connectivity by addressing difficult issues such as public private partnerships (PPPs).

In short, Vancouver agenda for PECC'€™s 2013 General Meeting is highly similar to that of APEC. It pays balanced attention to competitiveness, more inclusion or greater equity and sustainability.

There are a number of things that Canada and Indonesia can contribute to the Asia-Pacific cooperation. Canada is the world'€™s second-largest landmass with tens of thousands of lakes while Indonesia is the world'€™s largest archipelago with thousands of islands. Such contrast in geography can serve as a source of great synergy. Canadians and Indonesians are similarly diverse, genetically and culturally, seeking to provide a base for great diversity at different stages of progression.

Economically, Canada and Indonesia share some commonalities such as the challenges of resource management and some complementarities such as Canada'€™s slow growth compared to its advanced development and Indonesia'€™s higher pace of growth despite a much lower level of development, as well as Canada'€™s predominantly service-based economy and Indonesia'€™s revitalized manufacturing industry.

Canada'€™s very high per capita income at a moderate Gini coefficient and very high human development index (HDI) must be of relevance for Indonesia with its prolonged struggle on the middle-income path or even Sisiphean path, high Gini coefficient and low, albeit rising HDI.

Undoubtedly, physical distance continues to play a role in shaping relations between nations, in spite of the widely celebrated fall in transportation costs. The Asianization in the sense of adding to diversity by adopting more things that are Asian, is a universal game that Indonesia is also learning to play and it is likely to focus on greater China. Countries outside China will have to make a lot of noise in order to get heard on the fringes of the throng of China.

Yet, a complex portfolio of relations rather than a one-sided reliance on one big basket is the more probable path to development as Ashraf and Galor found out in their study on economic development and heterozygosity.

The writer is chair of the board of directors, CSIS Foundation, Jakarta.