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On 23 August 2006, during the 13th Consultation held between the ASEAN Economic Ministers and the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry of Japan (AEM-METI) in Kuala Lumpur, the name 'Economic Research Institute for ASEAN and East Asia (ERIA)' appeared for the first time.

In this meeting, Mr Toshihiro Nikai, Japan's Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry, proposed to establish a think tank called ERIA that would approximate an East Asia version of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) and committed to contribute more than 10 billion yen in 10 years. A joint media statement of said consultation later stated that the ASEAN Ministers welcomed Japan's proposal and requested Japan to discuss it further with the ASEAN Secretariat.

In response to this, then ASEAN Secretary General, Mr Ong Keng Yong, initiated the creation of an ERIA Expert Group chaired by Dr Hadi Soesastro, Senior Fellow at the Centre for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), Indonesia, and composed of experts from 16 East Asia Summit (EAS) countries and the ASEAN Secretariat. The Expert Group had intensive discussions on the overall idea of ERIA, in particular, its objectives, activities, structure, research themes, and capacity building program.

At the Second East Asia Summit held on 15 January 2007 in Cebu, Philippines, Mr Shinzo Abe, Prime Minister of Japan, formally proposed to establish ERIA and the EAS Leaders welcomed said proposal. Thereupon, on 1 April 2007, the Expert Group agreed on the Points of Convergence on the Institutional Set-Up of ERIA, which defined the objectives, activities and policy interface of ERIA. In addition, two test-run research projects were started through a collaboration among 16 regional research institutes. One was titled 'Developing a Roadmap toward East Asian Economic Integration', which was reported to the ASEAN Economic Ministers Meeting in August 2007, and the other was the 'Energy Security in East Asia', which was reported to the East Asia Energy Ministers' Meeting also in August 2007. Based on the results of these projects and the thorough discussions of the Expert Group, the formal establishment of ERIA was agreed upon by all the leaders of the East Asia Summit at the Third East Asia Summit in Singapore on 21 November 2007.

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