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PERSPECTIVE ON THE PACIFIC RIM : The Twain Meet in Two Summits : Clinton can talk democracy for the Americas and trade for Asia, and reach similar goals in both areas.

November 14, 1994|DONALD K. EMMERSON | Donald K. Emmerson is a visiting professor with the Asia/Pacific Research Center at Stanford University. and

This year is ending in a flurry of summits. Two of the most important will bring together the leaders of large chunks of the planet: the Pacific Rim and the Western Hemisphere. These meetings show the new importance of regionalism in a post-Cold War world, and they also pose a choice between U.S. policies to shape that world.

President Clinton is attending the 18-country Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) leaders meeting in Bogor, Indonesia, this week. Then, Dec. 8-11 in Miami, he will host all of the 33 heads of government from North, Central and South America (except Cuba).

The meetings in Bogor and Miami call for sharply different approaches to regional cooperation. If it does what President Clinton wants it to, the Miami summit will celebrate the triumph of democracy in the Western Hemisphere and reaffirm the "virtuous spiral" implanted like a pacemaker in the ideological heart of his foreign policy: Development induces democracy, democracy promotes peace and peace permits more development. Good things go together.

In Bogor, democracy is not on the agenda. In the 80 pages of recommendations to the APEC summiteers written by U.S. policy economist Fred Bergsten and colleagues from around the Pacific Rim, the word democracy is not even mentioned. The report proposes instead that APEC leaders commit their countries to "free and open" trade and investment around and across the Pacific Basin by the year 2020.

Should Clinton politicize APEC's agenda by championing the goals of democracy and respect for human rights, as he will in Miami? Should he make access to the vast American market conditional on Asia Pacific countries' taking steps toward meeting those political goals?

The case for yes seems persuasive. APEC members include a number of relatively authoritarian governments. The gerontocracy in Beijing continues to repress internal opposition and to threaten to cancel what little democracy British governor Chris Patten will have been able to institute in Hong Kong when that colony reverts to Chinese rule in 1997. Recently, police in Singapore interrogated an American academic about an article he had written about unnamed regimes in the region that "reveal considerable ingenuity in their methods of suppressing dissent." In doing so, the police illustrated the language they had been told to investigate.

Potentially more embarrassing is the poor record on freedoms and rights compiled by Clinton's Indonesian host. In June, the Indonesian equivalents of Time and Newsweek were banned. In mid-October, moves were under way to prevent members of a new Independent Journalists Assn. from covering the APEC meetings. Outspoken Indonesian professors have been harassed or fired.

Clinton should feel free to voice such concerns informally in private, bilateral meetings. But he should not do so multilaterally within the APEC framework. Miami rules are inappropriate in Bogor. The "E" in APEC stands for economic , not political. To play the role of public scold in Indonesia would pointlessly worsen America's already shaky relations with crucial trading partners.

In Bogor, Clinton will face the leaders of economies whose combined size more than triples that of his guests in Miami. The average annual rates of per-capita economic growth achieved by East Asia and Latin America in 1980-91 were, respectively, 7.8% and -0.1%. Latin America has more than twice the external debt of East Asia. The Pacific Rim is too vibrant and vital a zone for U.S. trade and investment--2.6 million American jobs depend on exports to Asia--to risk for the sake of scoring political points off leaders who already doubt America's commitment to economic cooperation. Those doubts have been increased by the inability or unwillingness of Congress to strengthen Clinton's economic hand in Bogor by approving the World Trade Organization, and they may be further heightened by the results of the elections last week.

The difference between the strategies appropriate in Miami and Bogor is not an anomaly. It reflects the difference between two regions. Nor will Clinton be inconsistent if he chooses to talk economics in Indonesia and politics in Miami. According to his Administration's faith in the "virtuous spiral," by promoting the prosperity of the Pacific Rim--and of the United States as a key player--he will also help to diminish authoritarianism in East Asia.

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