Indonesia has called for Asian countries to bear Asian values to overcome income gaps and differing legal systems and levels of development among countries, which could hamper economic integration in the region, a newspaper said Friday.
Indonesian Vice President Jusuf Kalla warned that gaping income disparities between the countries of the region, as well as differing legal and governmental systems, and levels of infrastructural development, could present major hurdles to greater integration.
He noted that a number of countries had per capita incomes of less than 1,000 U.S. dollars while others had per capita incomes of more than 20,000 dollars.
"It could be a problem if we pursue economic cooperation without closing the gap first, but it will take years to overcome the gap. So, the challenge is how to find a harmonious way of achieving both," he was quoted by major national newspaper The Jakarta Post as saying.
Kalla made the remarks Thursday during an international symposium on the possible establishment of an East Asian Free Trade Area here.
He characterized Asian values as a system of ethics that prioritized cooperation over competition.
"It is also about how to say yes and no without causing hard feelings. They won't be easy to apply, but we should try rather than copying other systems and values," Kalla said.
Leaders from the region floated the idea of creating an East Asian Community during the first East Asian Summit in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia , last year.
The leaders from the ten-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), plus China, South Korea, Japan, India, Australia and New Zealand, will meet again next month in Cebu, the Philippines, to discuss how the proposal could be implemented.
Many say that the 16 countries together could overtake other groupings, including the European Union and the North American Free Trade Area as it would account for half of the world's population, or more than 3 billion people, and a quarter of the world's total GDP of about 8.3 trillion dollars.
Another challenge, Kalla said, was how to combine different levels of technological advancement, human resources development and natural resources endowment so as to produce a solid economic community that was able to compete with other regions.
"Another question is what sort of value system will we use? Will we adopt American or European values? I say we should adopt Asian values in our cooperation. We can feel these values inside ourselves," Kalla said.