Friday, 5 April 2013

Monday, 28 July 2008

The Omnilateralist

Omnilateralism

The concept of "omnilateralism" was first developed by Dr. Wolfgang Pape in World Affairs, Jul-Sep 1997, p.94-109, in the context of international relations and global governance.


The term is derived from the Latin "omnibus" meaning 'for and by all', as abbreviated in the word 'bus' used in most languages for a vehicle carrying people, for my more detailed definition see under "omnilateralism" in Wikipedia.

See also Working Paper "Opening the World to Omnilateralism" at http://ec.europa.eu/comm/cdp/working-paper/opening_the_wold.pdf

I invite creative comments to share, but please give source and use if you copy. Thanks!


World Affairs, Geneva , Jul-Sep 1997 Vol 1 No 3

THE   EUROPEAN   UNION   AND   THE
UNITED   STATES   IN   EAST   ASIA:   THE
NEED   FOR   OMNILATERALISM

A PERSONAL VIEW BY A EUROPEAN

WOLGANG PAPE

Europe and the US have often adopted different approaches to East Asia, but their policy objectives regarding trade and investment are fundamentally similar. It is now time for a shift from the established multilateral framework that is essentially Western-oriented towards a more global or "omnilateral" system.

As a continental European one often feels somewhere in the middle between the US and Asia, as if the dateline over the Pacific Ocean still marks the fault line between two extremes; to quote Goethe: Prophete rechts, Prophete links, das Weltkind in der Mitten! (Prophet to the right, prophet to the left, the child of the world in the middle!) However, now the Europeans have started to wonder, who is really unique in this world: the Japanese islanders at the periphery of Asia who have often so pretended by claiming their yuniku-sa (uniqueness), or the pioneering Americans on their seemingly endless mainland?
A recent book by the former Harvard professor Seymour Lipset under the title, American Exceptionalism, confirmed indirectly that we Europeans are in many respects somewhere in the middle between two extremes in this shrinking world. Lipset contrasts in particular the exceptionalism of the Americans with the self-proclaimed uniqueness of the Japanese at both ends of the range of possibilities. Some Europeans simply claim that we are closer to both sides than they are to each other. This can easily be confirmed if you just measure the distance between Brussels and Beijing and Washington and Beijing. The ominous "Japan-passing" of recent date is an exclusively American term, as we Europeans need not fly across Nippon's islands anyway, but can reach China directly, and also by Eur-Asian railway! While many Japanese have slowly come to realise the dangers of being passed over in view of missed new ideas from visitors and foreign direct investment, the next level of indifference has already been discussed on the borderless Internet under the slogan "Japan nothing".


FROM CONFRONTATION TO COOPERATION

In contrast to such "nothing", the European Union has during the last decade stressed "cooperation" time and again in its policies towards East Asia. However, we had to come a long way to reach the necessary mutual understanding which underlies such cooperation.
Despite Japan's accession into GATT in 1955, there have remained rocks like Scylla and Charybdis in the path towards cooperation. Major trade frictions occurred in the 1960s when Japan produced plans to slowly liberalise its economy only after her Western trade partners exerted pressure. Such a pattern recalled the forced opening of the country, particularly as symbolised by Admiral Perry's Black Ships in the middle of the nineteenth century, and soon the term gaiatsu (outside pressure) found its way into the foreign media almost as widely as Japan's exports flooded into the markets of the West. But it is for reasons other than merely historic that the Japanese nowadays associate gaiatsu much more with America than with Europe. There are even suggestions about applying reverse gaiatsu by the EU and Japan in the multilateral context against the US, in order to see American policymakers forswear negative hegemony and short-term unilateralism, (eg, most recently, before the WTO on the Massachusetts law denying state contracts to companies doing business in Myanmar).
However, vis-à-vis its Asian partners, the EU not only often lacks the means to build up such pressure due to its absence of military power and as a restrained exporter of foodstuff, it also has to bring together the often diverging interests of fifteen member states. Furthermore, as a supra-national entity it is by its very structure and also by conviction much more inclined to resort to the multilateral system. Thus it tends to rather apply the mechanisms of the WTO, GATT, and even OECD, to pursue its policy goals. The basic objectives of Europe's East Asia policies are best described in the recent Communications of the European Commission (EC). The most general one is entitled, "Towards a New Asia Strategy", (Communication of July, 1994) while the others are more specifically on Japan, China, ASEM (Asia-Europe Meeting), etc, and most recently on Hong Kong called, "The EU and Hong Kong: Beyond 1997".

The European Union has during the last decade stressed “cooperation" time and again in its policies towards East Asia. In the Communication on Japan, the word "cooperation" comes up close to 30 times and in the Communication on China even more frequently. Of course, in the background of such slogans lie strong economic interests expressed in such terms as "market access" and "business opportunities". However, the intentions of the EU go clearly beyond the strictly economic, into areas of science and technology, environment, and even such multilateral issues as disarmament and non-proliferation.
The actual implementation of Europe's East Asia Policies varies greatly according to the individual Asian country or economy concerned. By fir the greatest number of declared EU policies that have been implemented concern Japan, especially with regard to the numerous fields of cooperation. There has also been more advanced political dialogue with Japan than with other partners in East Asia. Nevertheless, the frequent procrastination of summits and ministerial meetings highlights the Japanese tatemae (facade) of mere declarations without substantive content or honne (reality). However, for the sake of comparison and contrast with the US, the concrete implementation of EU trade policy with Japan is worth looking at in detail.
An instructive example is provided by TAM (Trade Assessment Mechanism) which the Commission has been conducting with Japan since 1993. It aims at improving access to the Japanese market by mutual agreement on an objective basis of data. For this purpose an EC-Japan group has been set up jointly with experts from both sides who analyse the factors affecting the comparative performance of European products on the Japanese market and vice versa. Using Europe's performance regarding other advanced partners, like the US, Canada and Australia, as a reference, the Commission regularly conducts a systematic evaluation together with the Japanese ministries. The purpose of this joint TAM exercise is not to set any quantified target for trade, but to identify problems, to establish their causes, and to propose action for their timely resolution.

TAM, by simply creating mutual awareness of problems for trade in both markets, has contributed considerably to overcoming stereotype perceptions, building confidence and, more concretely, reducing barriers to trade (eg, for the beer market in Japan). It is noteworthy that the EU-Japan TAM exercise preceded by about half a year the rather controversial "Framework for a New Economic Partnership" agreed upon between the US and Japan. With the passing of Japan bashing, it is now obviously China which draws most of the attention in Washington. The Europeans too have woken up to the challenges perceived in the "Middle Kingdom".

The cooperative approach of the EU is best exemplified by one particular project of the EU with China, because it clearly contrasts with a similar endeavour by the US which lost steam a couple of years ago. The need for management training in China was recognised by Europe as well as by America. In fact, the US Department of Commerce perceived this need early on and established a school in Dairen. However, for various reasons the school had to be closed in 1994.
The EC similarly understood the demand for such schooling and gradually started cooperating with the State Economic Commission of China in Beijing on human resource development in the project for a management institute. About 10 years later in 1994, just when the American school in Dairen was closing, we opened our "China Europe International Business School” (CEIBS) in Shanghai. Hundreds of MBA graduates have been trained in accounting, marketing and law, through this educational joint venture and many of them now occupy senior positions in China. This year the CEIBS will more than double the intake of full-time MBA students to 130 per year. In addition, more than 1200 executives from Sino-foreign joint ventures and Chinese companies have been participating in its management programmes. CEIBS is now already three times the size of the operation envisaged at the outset.
With the trade balance showing an American surplus, South Korea presently figures less prominently in the US. In October 1996 the EU entered into a Framework Agreement of Cooperation. The EU's decision to contribute 75 million ECU over a five-year period to the Korean Peninsula Energy Development Organisation (KEDO), after allocating 15 million in 1996, has stepped up efforts to attract Brussels, through Euratom, to participate with Seoul, Washington and Tokyo as a full member on the executive board of the consortium to promote nuclear safety in Korea.
One cannot leave EU-East Asia relations without briefly throwing at least some light on Europe's growing partnership with ASEAN. The strengthened relations help member states to reach beyond their colonial past and bilateral links to cooperation between the two regions. The Cooperation Agreement of 1980 makes the European Union ASEAN's longest dialogue partner. Obviously the challenges of vast markets and common experiences in regional integration are major motives for cooperation. But beyond the economy, along with the US and others, the EU is also an active partner in the ASEAN Regional Forum where security issues dominate the agenda.
It is therefore not surprising that it was a member of ASEAN, viz, Singapore, which took the initiative leading to the first Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM). Under this new acronym, ASEM brought together twenty-five heads of state and government in March 1996 in Bangkok. This has been a point of crystallisation in recent European policy towards East Asia.
ASEAN invited China, Japan and South Korea to participate in the first ASEM, thus forming an Asian side of "ASEAN plus 3”, that means 10 Asian countries. It is interesting to note that the self-chosen format of the participting countries "ASEAN plus 3” coincides with the membership of the East Asian Economic Caucus (EAEC, or "Caucus without Caucasians") proposed by Malaysia's prime minister Dr Mahathir. Furthermore, at ASEAN's thirtieth anniversary at the end of 1997, it is again this constellation of ASEAN plus 3 which were invited to an informal East Asian summit, which the US and consequently Japan's Foreign Ministry have long opposed.
In spite of pre-summit uncertainties and earlier scepticism about ASEM, the Bangkok meeting of leaders last year was regarded as "success beyond expectation". It marked a historic turning point in the relations between the two regions, as a new dialogue among equals between Europe and Asia has begun to replace the notion of the "missing link" in the Triad. A surprising reaction after the Meeting came from Malaysia's prime minister, as he was one of the most sceptical at the outset: "Dr Mahathir prefers ASEM to APEC" read the headline in Kuala Lumpur (Sunday Star, Malaysia, February 3, 1996)
Also unexpected was not so much the partly condescending criticism from major third countries, but the surprising reaction of some who considered it a quasi-counter balance to the grouping of a so-called JUSCANZ. This initiative to bring together Japan, the USA, Canada, Australia and New Zealand, is very flattering. It shows that ASEM is taken much more seriously than was originally thought. In particular, the reported attempt of JUSCANZ to include Switzerland and Norway as EU outsiders, might result in new theories of anchoring or even containment.


US EAST ASIA POLICIES

Ever since the end of the Vietnam War, the American President and his administration cannot be considered the only source of foreign policy in the US, other players have to be included in our analysis. For instance, the Senate's Committee on Foreign Relations and in particular its present chairman, Jesse Helms, exert immense influence. Major decisions depend on them ranging from the confirmation of the presidential nominee for secretaries of State and Commerce, or the US Trade Representative, to the ratification of international treaties.
In the recent scandal regarding “Indonesia Gate” in the US elections, we find a further indication that Asian-Americans are now moving increasingly into the hitherto occidental mainstream of US politics in their own Asian fashion, ie, with guonxi and money, (few people complain about British tobacco interests putting money into Dole's coffers to support his stance). Ambitious Asian-Americans have started advancing into elite positions in American society. For example, in the much publicised OJ Simpson case, judges Ito and Fukusaki gave many viewers abroad the prima‑facie impression that Japanese-Americans have taken over the US judiciary. However, the mainstream of “the American way” is still formed by the WASP (White Anglo-Saxon Protestant) establishment and "the Asian way" is regarded as almost diametrically opposed to it. Such contrasts are emphasised not only by Asians, such as Lee Kuan Yew, Mahathir and Ishihara, but also by Americans, like Harvard's Lipset in his aforementioned book "American Exceptionalism".

Another major "agent of influence" is the business lobby whose influence often is reflected very directly in the international negotiations of the government. Often such lobbying is evident in the case-by-case approach of market-opening demands of the US administration, eg, the "Kodak-case" with Japan. The "Market-Oriented, Sector-Specific" ‑(MOSS) negotiations of the 1980s with the Japanese are now considered as barely successful, thus discrediting the sector-by-sector approach in the US.
Such obvious opening of international trade negotiations under the pressure of specific business companies is not without danger. The displayed reduction to a concrete individual case of the lobbying firm allows the foreign country concerned to limit the often structural issue of wider interest (eg, closed distribution system and enforcement of competition law) to one company's case (eg, Kodak), and find an accordingly limited compromise, satisfying only that one company's interest. Such a short-sighted approach by US negotiators might provide appropriate headlines for politicians, and the media with concrete examples. In the long-term, however, it only skims the problem and does not solve the wider issues at stake. Naturally, it is also the basic concept of Anglo-Saxon case-law that manifests itself in this approach in contrast to the continental European understanding of more abstract legal codes which, on the other hand, runs the risk of dogmatically neglecting the individual tree while serving the principles of the overall forest.
From the opening of markets to the creation of new jobs, from democracy to human rights, the basic objectives of US policy towards East Asia, apart from nuances, hardly diverge from the goals of the Europeans. Here the common values of “the West” broadly draw from the same sources and their economic interests run parallel.
A detailed analysis of the objectives of US policy towards East Asia is difficult. Not only because of the apparent lack of continuity, but also because of the less dogmatic and more case-oriented approach of the Americans in general. Thus US objectives seem to be less clearly defined in official documents, and these sometimes have to be interpreted retrospectively after the implementation of concrete action. This leads to the slogan that some people in Washington are "too active to be reflective" about policies. While several observers advocate that the US diminish its involvement in the region, ie, they criticise the policy in quantitative terms, others examine the goals set and the methods used to reach those objectives. One influential, conservative, American think tank recently called for a "coherent US policy in East Asia" by putting the emphasis on US commitment to Japan, South Korea and Taiwan whilst "preventing China from engaging in dangerous adventures". Nevertheless its report acknowledges, ‘What happens in China will depend on its own choices, but the United States and its allies can develop a free and rich Northeast Asia and assure the Chinese people that the door is open for them to join’.

It seems that US policy is fluctuating with the size of the trade deficit as far as North East Asia, and especially Japan is concerned.
Such wide and abstract objectives, of course, are difficult to prove and at the risk of oversimplification, one can say that President Clinton started his first presidency with high priorities for reforms in Asia, thus initially subordinating trade to strategy. At last with the delinking of the MFN issue from human rights problems in China in 1996 and the quickening approach to Vietnam, economic objectives have clearly come to dominate the American agenda. This has provoked considerable criticism in the heart of America.
While the priority given to US exports in Asia to create 'jobs back home' is still on the rise, particularly in regard to China and South East Asia, it seems that US policy is fluctuating with the size of the trade deficit as far as North East Asia, and especially Japan, is concerned. The Pentagon's former Japan expert Joseph Nye has focused attention on wider security issues. The recent developments concerning the bilateral Security Treaty reflect their new found importance. Obviously, the USA as a superpower is still regarded by many as the major arbiter on security in Pacific Asia. Apart from its bilateral arrangements as "neighbour beyond the ocean", it claims to have a considerable stake in the guarantee of peace in the region in general.
This contrasts sharply with EU policy which has only an overall interest in global peace. Only one member state is directly involved in a major East Asian security treaty, ie, the Five-Power Defence Arrangement which links the UK with Singapore, Malaysia, Australia and New Zealand. The EU, however, has also been participating as such, since the early stages of the ASEAN Regional Forum where security issues are raised. Recently calls like, Europe Has a Major Role to Play in Asia-Pacific Security have also been found in the American press. (International Herald Tribune (1HT), July 9 1997).

In this short paper one can only be very general about policy-making in the USA and the EU vis-à-vis East Asia - a region composed of a highly heterogeneous set of countries and economies in terms of geography, state of development and policies regarding the West. Furthermore, the policies of the US and EU in various sectors, from trade to fundamental rights, are not always consistent nor complementary. Often addressing different interests and lobbies, they may at times even be contradictory.
Given these reservations, I dare to draw a generalising conclusion concerning the overall consistency of both players' East Asia policy. In recent years there appears to be greater continuity in European policy objectives and implementation than in the American. The Clinton administration defends this lack of “grand design by pointing out‑that "all-embracing strategies went out with the Cold War” and "with no single great enemy, the Clinton approach is one of case-by-case management". (IHT, September 2, 1995).
As for the implementation of US policy towards East Asia, it seems to link more closely with its objectives which are less long-term and rather ad hoc. Often the objectives are only recognisable in the implementing action itself This pragmatism is increasingly true for American trade policy where the business lobby often joins Washington's negotiations, expounding individual firms' interest during official visits, for eg, President Bush's infamous tour of Japan with the "'Big Three" of the American car industry in January 1991. The European Commissioners have recently also joined the US bandwagon travelling with an - albeit smaller and lower key - business entourage.
To give a quantitative assessment of the impact of such involvement of business in American diplomacy, the Economist (August 12, 1995) under the headline "Sales Force One" pointed out that 'In the year 1994 the Clinton administration was involved in providing advocacy on transactions worth $46 on, with an export content of $20 billion'. On issues like human rights also, American policy is more directly reflected in action, exemplified in the much published support of Harry Wu's return from China as well as in private companies investment decisions which sometimes are even exploited in commercials back home.
Such support for a political objective contrasts with the little attention East Asian issues of fundamental rights receive in Europe. For example, among the Commission financed projects to promote human rights, not a single country of he region appears on any of the Commission 's lists (Europe, No 6429 of February 27, 1995 p 12‑13). Nonetheless, the Commission pursues a policy of including a clause on the protection of human rights generally in all treaties with relevant countries, most recently with Vietnam (while Australia still does not accept it).
It can be accepted as a valid generalisation that the Americans adopt a more confrontational approach towards China and Asia than the EU. The methodology of the implementation of the US trade policy towards East Asia has been subject to criticism from various sources. In particular, its policy since mid-1980 when it moved away from the instruments of the multilateral system, which it had helped to build in the first place. Henceforth, the US has increasingly tended towards a position which experts like Jagdish Bhagwati have come to call "aggressive unilateralism" ranging from the "super" and “special" variants of section 301 of the 1988 Trade Act to the direct imposition of unilateral sanctions.
Outside interpreters have recently described US policy in East Asia, especially China, as moving increasingly from "positive engagement" (China into WTO, etc) as demonstrated at the Seattle APEC summit of 1993 towards what some call, "containment of an Asian dragon with growing economic power or its "constrainment". (IHT, August 9, 1996). Similarly exaggerated are descriptions of European policies of "collusion" with Asian partners to keep out American business by unrestrained export credits, etc.
However, it can be accepted as a valid generalisation that the Americans adopt "a more confrontational approach towards China and Asia" than the EU. They often like to throw their weight around as a superpower (not only in military terms, but also in terms of main supplier of basic foodstuffs to Japan, and of technological know-how to most of East Asia). Often propagating their model to the world with almost religious zeal, as seen most recently at the Denver Summit in June. This is done evidently in order to impress their partners with unilateral threats often on the basis of national laws like "Super 301 ", or even extra-territorial application and possible action by Congress.
In concluding the comparison of EU and US policies on East Asia, one might easily say that there is a greater tendency in the American policy to pursue its objectives unilaterally. This is done mainly by exploiting the instruments of pressure available only to the US as a superpower and also with the leverage at its disposal due to certain dependencies on American supplies in the region. Not only for the lack of such means, but also because of its very nature as a growing regional union of traditional nation states, bound by the common conviction of deeper super national integration, Europe as a "soft power" is apt to implement its common policies towards East Asia more through long-term persuasion and cooperative efforts.
       Nevertheless, one cannot deny a wide transatlantic commonality of policy objectives, as far as trade and investment in East Asia are concerned. Therefore, from an Asian perspective there is neither the danger of a "ganging up of the West against Asia", nor is there any basis to conduct a policy of divide et impera by Asian countries against the West. However, there are plenty of opportunities for concrete cooperation in the Triad to open up to a global system of governance beyond the established multilateral framework towards ‑ what 1 would like to call - the "omni-lateral" system.


OMNILATERALISM

As the above-mentioned logic of the European Weltkind in der Mitten already indicates, there has to be some balance of weight on both sides, in the East as well as in the West of Europe. Without any doubt, America to the West of Europe has contributed enormously to the setting-up of the multilateral system. For example, it would be impossible to imagine the creation of the United Nations, the World Bank and the World Trade Organisation, just to mention the main institutions, without the pro-active participation of the US. Similarly, Europeans have contributed to the establishment of these organisations through the Atlantic Charter with the UK, for instance. These contributions can be tracked to a point where the current multilateral system appears not only Western inspired, but an outgrowth of almost pure Western thinking, including of course its tolerance of otherness in pluralism.
For an outsider, it may be hard to make out the influence of non-Western and in particular Asian cultures in the setting-up of these institutions or their working processes. Although some countries were early members or even founding fathers of the institutions, the Asian impact on these multilateral institutions seems to have been minimal. This has often been attributed to economic backwardness of the Asian countries, until Japan caught up with the West after having joined the IMF in 1952, GATT in 1955 and OECD in 1964, subsequently benefiting considerably from that multilateral system.

Although some countries were early members or even founding fathers of the institutions, the Asian impact on these multilateral institutions seems to have been minimal. Most European countries then applied Article 35 of GATT against Japan, thus denying her advantages which they granted to the other contracting parties. These restrictions were gradually lifted over the years as Japan's trade partners perceived the need to at least partly replace those restrictions by Voluntary Restraint Agreements and the like. In doing so, the question remains even after decades of membership: Has Japan really adapted its internal economic patterns to this multilateral system? ­Following the debate on Japan's, industrial policy, some critics argued that GATT's traditional market-based and non-discriminatory orientation showed weaknesses and thus needed modification. The West then demanded Japan play a more active role on the international stage "commensurate with her economic might". However, as a matter of fact, the Japanese mainstream understanding of their hackneyed internationalisation is still too passive to lead to any proactive input into the multilateral system, which would help it also to encompass the particularities of the internal workings of their very Japanese society. While the process of deregulation might render the country's legal basis more similar to Anglo‑Saxon concepts, it will hardly, or at least only in the long term, alter ingrained patterns of behaviour on the Japanese islands.
The German scholar, Josef Kohler, once explained law as a cultural phenomenon. Hence, if it is alien in a given society, such incompatibility creates friction and might even lead to forms of schizophrenia. Also the OECD points out in its "Vision 2020" that the prospects for the new Global Age, in which all countries can be active players, depend on the ability to adapt to changes, and emphasises first the many "behind-the-border" barriers which need to be tackled (OECD Document, "Towards a New Global Age", C (97) 80, Pan's 1997).
A similar dualism could sharpen in a China which under outside pressure precipitately and superficially adopts Western rules, but internally cannot rapidly adapt her traditional pattern of behaviour. For some - especially young people in China - the reception. of Western thinking has already gone too far. From Japan's experience with gaiatsu to open up since the mid-nineteenth century to similar outside pressures from other countries, one can easily conclude that civil liberties in a state are inversely proportional to the impact of such external pressures. Others go even further in drawing a worst-case scenario, arguing that the economic determinism of the West could well cause ‘violent efforts to throw off, master, or revenge, the invasive influence of disruptive Western ideas and values’. According to William Pfaff, 'The internationalisation of any non-Western economy automatically undermines social practices, and religious and cultural norms. It is a literally subversive force... There will sooner or later be a reaction.'
On this timing, I should like to qualify Kaffs analysis, as we in Europe and America also first had to develop these concepts, and one of the major problems for East Asia is the incomparable speed of development. First in Japan followed by the "Four Tigers" and then with Southeast Asia, the acceleration to reach industrialisation and subsequently beyond, has dramatically progressed with each "Wild Goose" following Japan and now even the "Dragon". Social advances that have taken centuries in the UK to grow internally are now pushed into these countries within a few years. Backlashes, therefore, cannot be avoided, even in still well controlled societies like that of South Korea. Furthermore, there is growing realisation in Asia that nowadays modernisation does not, necessarily, mean Westernisation.
Such development in China could not only cause much greater problems for the West in view of China's size, but also because China is clearly more assertive internationally, as the re-emerging "Middle Kingdom", supported by an already highly active network of 50 Million overseas Chinese. China is the world's second largest holder of foreign exchange reserves, after Japan. With its trade surplus with the US expected to be greater than that of Japan soon, China has bought a sizeable number of US treasury bonds exceeding that of Japan in 1996. 'China could jolt the US financial market as well as the world economy by dumping those bonds ... such a danger involving China is much greater compared with Japan's holding of US bonds.' (Mainiciii Shimbun, February 24, 1997). Unless China joins as an integral "stake-holder", and not only a passive trader in the existing multilateral system, such a system remains only "multilateral Western". The acclaimed world order would not be truly all-compassing and thus would remain unable to claim genuine universal values for all.

Without going into the details of underlying philosophies, there are good reasons to doubt the absolutism that we have reached the "end of history".
There is growing realisation in Asia that nowadays modernisation does not, necessarily, mean Westernisation. Rather we can see the increasing re-emergence of culturally divergent identities, which the contentions of the hot and cold wars of our century had covered up under superficial layers of ideologies. While now roots are sought more and more in regional, and even local, cultures by mobile individuals in order to balance their loss of identity within globalising economies, world bodies rightfully deserve their name, only if these organisations fully encompass the pro-active partnership of all players on this globe, from the occident as well as the orient.
The absolutism of neither Hegelian nor, more recently, that, of Fukuyama's claimed "End of History", is convincing but the forces of pertinent, traded cultural notions and new patterns of communication, (for example "death of distance" through the Internet) are too strong to be any longer neglected in global governance. These divergent cultural presumptions have to be understood first, in order to establish a sense of "co-ownership" and an all-inclusive approach by international institutions.
One example, where Eastern concepts might greatly contribute to. World-wide problem solving is their more holistic approach to nature and consequently more direct comprehension of interdependence in our common ecological system. On the highly topical issues of the protection of the environment, it is the old Buddhist principles of interdependence in nature and in cycles of reincarnation which serve as a much better basis to understand the need for the recycling of materials, than our Western concept - or rather illusion - of creation from zero. Holistic views of nature conserve, whereas our analytical approaches often tend to divide before conceiving common elements. If some East Asian economies have not yet manifested these holistic values as much as would be expected from their religious background, it can be attributed mainly to the speed of development and social transformation that does not reflect traditional values. With the stabilisation of a broader middle class in society, there will re-emerge a stronger identification with original values, as we have seen already in Japan.
One concrete manifestation of the holistic approach can be seen in the long established Japanese horticultural art of miniaturising an otherwise intact landscape, as Sansui (compare also Chinese Bonsai), whilst gardening in the West traditionally amounts to the systematic, geometric separation of the elements and sorts of plants, as in Parc de Versailles, for example. Seeing "nature as the mother", (Takeshi Umehara, Voice, Tokyo, July 95, p 166, in Japanese) is now perceived as one of the reasons for success. It was not by accident that the Worldwatch Institute gave Japan and China relatively good marks on their environment policies (State of the World 1997, New York 1997, p 9). The fact that Chinese cities have relatively few polluting, motorised bikes or mopeds, but still millions of human driven non-polluting bicycles seems to be the result less of technical and economic backwardness, than the intended outcome of a strict licence system. Apparently, it is very difficult to get a licence for a motorcycle and frequently it is refused.

The generic nexus of guatixi or connections in China is the traditional variant of the modern concept of networking, be it in persona or only virtually through the Internet. Some go even further and suggest the linked verses in dialogue in the Japanese renga tradition of multi-dimensional unit is the possible structure for networking in the information age. For them there is a need for “synthetic" perspectives with "circulation" and "symbiosis" instead of the Western "analytic" methods with "progress" through competition. (cf. Kenichi Ito, Non-European Civilisations Rediscovered, Symposium at the JDZ Berlin, June 1,1996).
      There must be numerous other examples for the comparative culturalist, drawn not only from Asian cultures, but also from other continents which, as co-owning and proactive stakeholders, could enrich global governance. The search for such constructive elements in emerging societies to build a truly omnilateral system of course, remain an ongoing task that will never be finished as long as history flows.
If we do not open up to such omnilateralism - in contrast to the "only multilateral system" of today - there is a danger, at some point in the future, that China will no longer see the need to join the "Western-made" institutions or enter as a passive member, like Japan did in GATT in 1955, but may sooner or later break up its purely Western concepts from the inside like an alien cuckoo in a nightingale's nest. Admittedly, such omnilateralism seems to be an idealistic vision which underrates the urgent need to "constructively engage" China into the world trading system. However, it is precisely the constructive, ie, building together nature of the engagement which should reflect China's input to build an omnilateral system. Otherwise, there is clearly a risk of taking non-Westeners into the existing system like accepting a new member into a conservative club, because they just happened to move into the neighbourhood in terms of development (like South Korea into the OECD), or because they have grown sufficiently important as the new boys on the block (for eg, Russia into "Group of 8 " and China into WTO). If one accepts Europe as Weltkind in der Mitten, then it should naturally assume the role of a mediator. This is a role Europe can, and should play much more often. The multilateral organisations, however, are expanding their geographical and thereby also their cultural reach, which, likewise, should also encompass their particularities. This, of course, does not at all exclude the existence of universal fundamental values, as then agreed upon by all " omnilaterally".
When I quoted Goethe's Weltkind in der Mitten at the beginning to locate Europe in between America and Asia, I wanted to indicate the relative nearness of Europe to both. If one accepts Europe as Weltkind in der Mitten, then it should naturally assume the role of a mediator. This is a role Europe can and should play much more often. But its preoccupation with its own integration process (now in particular with East Europe) has hitherto prevented it from fulfilling that function. The Cold War strengthened the alliance with America, but left the missing link" with East Asia. It is time the Weltkind regains its balance and opens up to omnilateralism.

Wednesday, 17 June 2009

Obama the Omnilateralist - Open to All?

Original on : www.neurope.eu/articles/94608.php



Obama as an omnilateralist – is he open to all?

Issue: 837 Posted: June 07 2009

During his State of the Union address in 2002, then US president George W. Bush unilaterally listed North Korea along with Iran and Iraq in the what he called the Axis of Evil. His motto was, “You’re with us, or against us!” Together with his Vice-President Dick Cheney, he became the incarnation of unilateralism, declarations and actions emanating from the White House without much ado or consideration for others. Few, even amongst the allies or foreign governments, and much less the UN were consulted when American unilateralism peaked with the war in Iraq. President Barack Obama, who went to the Middle East last week to woo Muslims, showed even before he became president that he was ready to listen and during his election campaign demonstrated an omnilateral approach, by raising most of his money not from a few big spenders – as Bush did, mainly from the oil industry - but from millions of small engaging donours in America, mainly through the Internet. This provided him with a much broader basis and political independence. Now he has proclaimed a policy of omnilateral openness towards Africa, North Korea and Iran, and made overtures to Cuba and the Taliban. Obama, whose father was Kenyan, had been particularly outspoken as a Senator on US policy towards Africa. Early on, he advocated opening dialogue with Iran, since he recognised that the war in Iraq strengthened Iran’s influence in the region, and he wanted Iran to play a more constructive role with Iraq. Obama also has supported developing an international coalition to handle the nuclear issue of North Korea, and says he supports “sustained, direct, and aggressive diplomacy.” In a September 2008 presidential debate, Obama said a lack of diplomatic engagement with North Korea led the country to significantly increase its nuclear capacity. In his first extensive interview since taking office as Obama went as far as pointing out his childhood in predominantly Muslim Indonesia to open up to his audience on Arab TV. On his first day in office he phoned major leaders in the Middle East and he was voted the “most respected” amongst world leaders in the West. So, is Obama the new Omnilateralist, opening the West to the rest and to all sides? Will his administration - to the Muslim world and others – really “seek a new way forward, based on mutual interest and mutual respect” as he said in his inaugural address? Will the Americans “extend a hand” if the others are willing to unclench the fist? Or is the American nation still so deeply “at war, against a far-reaching network of violence and hatred” (Obama’s inaugural address) that Omnilateralism, namely governance for and by all, remains a dream of some Kantian idealists in Europe, but cannot persuade the new American leadership? An American move towards such Omnilateralism could lead to more participatory international politics which is a dire need not only for global goods like the trans-border environment, but now obviously also for regulating global finance to tackle the current economic crisis. Mere multilateral solutions through a Washington Consensus or the traditional institutions of the UN, IMF etc. might not suffice anymore, as too many major players – public or private, North or South, West or East— do not feel properly represented. While we widen the circles from G7 to G20, many more - also NGOs - want their voices heard. If President Obama starts to open the ears of the American administration (his new envoys abroad are told to “listen first”!) he might indeed meet high expectations and become the Omnilateralist, driving a popular omnibus, rather than a gas-guzzling SUV.

Dr. Wolfgang Pape is currently Policy Officer, International Affairs, in DG Enterprise of the European Commission after having studied and served in America and Asia. This commentary does not reflect the position of the European Commission and reflects only the personal opinions of the writer

Monday, 28 July 2008

The Omnilateralist

Omnilateralism

The concept of "omnilateralism" was first developed by Dr. Wolfgang Pape in World Affairs, Jul-Sep 1997, p.94-109, in the context of international relations and global governance.


The term is derived from the Latin "omnibus" meaning 'for and by all', as abbreviated in the word 'bus' used in most languages for a vehicle carrying people, for my more detailed definition see under "omnilateralism" in Wikipedia.

See also Working Paper "Opening the World to Omnilateralism" at http://ec.europa.eu/comm/cdp/working-paper/opening_the_wold.pdf

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