Minilateral Solutions: Japan and Australia Address Geoeconomic Challenges
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By The Smartencyclopedia Staff

In the dynamic landscape of the Indo-Pacific, Japan, and Australia, as influential middle powers, are embracing minilateralism to navigate complex geoeconomic challenges. The focus of this approach aims to enhance regional cooperation, fortify the economic order, and counteract coercive practices, particularly from major players such as China. While traditionally relying on bilateral and multilateral engagements, the two nations recognize the unique advantages of minilateralism, characterized by agility and adaptability, in protecting against geoeconomic coercion.

Amidst discussions of minilateralism’s efficacy in the Indo-Pacific’s security, diplomatic, defense, and economic realms, Japan and Australia are emphasizing their role in fostering regional cooperation at the intersection of economics and security.

The economics-security nexus, involving the use of economic tools for security-related goals, has become a key area of interest for both nations. With shared concerns about preventing coercive economic practices, especially from China, Japan, and Australia aim to shape and safeguard the regional economic order.

Both countries have experienced coercive economic actions from China, highlighting the need for alternative protective measures. As direct retaliation may prove impractical, a proactive approach involves making the region more resilient. This includes helping countries diversify their trade relationships and reinforcing the rules-based economic order in the region.

While Japan and Australia have actively engaged with the region through bilateral partnerships and multilateral institutions, minilateral initiatives offer a more agile and adaptable alternative. Minilateral approaches, characterized by their agility and adaptability, present advantages over bilateral and multilateral frameworks.

Despite their involvement in security-focused minilateral initiatives like the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue (Quad) and AUKUS, Japan, and Australia have been less active in building minilateral institutions to address geoeconomic challenges. China’s emphasis on geoeconomics in its initiatives underscores the significance of addressing this gap.

Recent developments, such as the Trilateral Infrastructure Partnership and the Partners in the Blue Pacific, indicate a shift toward geoeconomic minilateralism. These initiatives, although in their early stages, demonstrate a growing recognition of the need to address geoeconomic challenges through agile and adaptable frameworks.

Minilateral approaches can fill gaps left by traditional multilateralism and bilateralism. The focus can include cooperation among like-minded partners or building comprehensive strategic partnerships. Establishing ‘anti-coercion’ coalitions becomes the ultimate goal.

Identifying potential partners is crucial in this process. Indonesia emerges as a viable option, being a major strategic player and an emerging geoeconomic actor. Collaborative efforts with India, as seen in the Supply Chain Resilience Initiative, and agreements on critical minerals demonstrate the potential for expanded minilateral cooperation.

Japan and Australia, through the Quad partnership, are setting standards and aiding cooperation on critical and emerging technologies. Engaging with Southeast Asian countries, particularly Pacific Islands countries, becomes vital in creating broader economic resilience.

In the face of China’s attempts at economic coercion, diversification of economic activity gains importance. The relative decline of the United States underscores the need for close collaboration among middle powers in the Indo-Pacific. Japan and Australia are encouraged to foster minilateral webs of cooperation, not only in the military sphere but also in the critical nexus between economics and security.

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