Page last updated at 06:40 GMT, Thursday, 5 June 2008 07:40 UK

Rudd moots EU-style Asia-Pac bloc

Australian PM Kevin Rudd in Sydney on 20 May 2008
Kevin Rudd envisages the new bloc being in place by 2020

Australian PM Kevin Rudd has proposed the creation of a new Asia-Pacific bloc, similar to the European Union.

Mr Rudd said the organisation would co-operate in economic, security and political matters and reflect the region's growing importance.

He wants the new body to be in place by 2020 and span the region, including the US, Japan, China, India and Indonesia.

It would incorporate a broader remit than existing bodies like Apec, Asean and the East Asia Summit, he said.

'Unresolved conflicts'

Mr Rudd, elected in November, discussed the idea in a radio interview on Thursday after outlining it in an address the previous evening to the Asia Society Australasia in Sydney.

"Remember, the region is currently host to a whole range of unresolved territorial conflicts: the Taiwan Straits, the Korean peninsula, Kashmir, involving a whole range of nuclear weapons states," he said.

"We can either stand back and allow things to drift, or we can say, actually, there should be a better way of handling this. And that's what we are putting forward as an ambitious proposal for the future."

He said any future Asia-Pacific Community would not need to mirror the European Union, a 27-nation bloc with some common trade and development policies.

The government is to appoint a diplomat to discuss Mr Rudd's idea with relevant nations.

Andrew Robb, foreign affairs spokesman for the opposition, dismissed Mr Rudd's proposal as "presumptuous".

"His first job is not to be making pronouncements about grand architecture for the region, telling China, Indonesia and Japan and India how they will be organised as a region by Australia in the next 20 years," he said.

Mr Rudd should develop strong bilateral relationships before he tried to shape the region, he said.

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