The Trans-Pacific Partnership - towards a Free Trade Agreement of Asia-Pacific?

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TABLE OF CONTENTS

   I. INTRODUCTION
  II. APEC--WHAT IS IT AND WHAT IS ITS PURPOSE?
 III. THE BOGOR DECLARATION
  IV. RECENT APEC YEARS
   V. THE EMERGENCE OF BINDING COMMITMENTS AMONG APEC
      ECONOMIES
      A. FTAs, RTAs, and Other Arrangements
      B. Guidance Provided by APEC
         1. APEC Research
         2. APEC Guidelines
  VI. FREE TRADE AND INVESTMENT IN THE ASIA-PACIFIC REGION
      A. Have the Bogor Goals Been Achieved?
      B. Is an FTAAP Achievable?
 VII. THE TRANS-PACIFIC PARTNERSHIP NEGOTIATIONS
VIII. CONCLUSION

I. INTRODUCTION

The United States and eight other countries are currently involved in Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) negotiations that are designed to culminate in a "gold standard" (1) free trade agreement (FTA). The TPP negotiations are among the more recent of a large number of FTAs and Regional Trade Agreements (RTAs) that have been or are being negotiated between the member economies of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum. Since the APEC Leaders' Bogor Declaration in November 1994, the member economies have been committed on some level to the objective of achieving an environment for "free and open" trade and investment in the Asia-Pacific region. APEC members and numerous observers have speculated whether this objective is intended or might at some stage evolve into the goal of establishing of a Free Trade Agreement of Asia-Pacific (FTAAP).

This article reviews developments in APEC since the Bogor Declaration and among the various APEC economies that demonstrate the practical effects of the stated commitment of achieving free and open trade and investment. The article analyzes whether an FTAAP is the logical and likely culmination of the Bogor Declaration and, if so, whether the TPP agreement sought by the United States represents a plausible first step in achieving such an ambitious goal.

II. APEC--WHAT Is IT AND WHAT IS ITS PURPOSE?

APEC originated from an idea first publicly" proposed by Australian Prime Minister Bob Hawke in January 1989 during meetings in Seoul, Korea. (2) Later that year, Australia hosted the first annual meeting of Foreign and Trade Ministers from twelve Asia-Pacific economies to discuss greater cooperation in the region. (3) Between 1989 and 1992, APEC met as an informal senior official and ministerial level dialogue. (4) The initiative attracted a number of other regional economies very quickly. (5) Gradually, APEC's activities expanded and became more formalized in various ways.

The first APEC Economic Leaders' Meeting was held in November 1993 at Blake Island near Seattle at the invitation of former United States President Clinton. (6) The objective was to give further impetus and high-level commitment to trade liberalization and cooperation. The 1993 meeting set the precedent for the current process of annual Leaders' meetings representing the culmination of each APEC year, hosted by an economy in its turn. (7)

The success of APEC in attracting this level of engagement has prompted other nations in the region to participate. APEC now comprises twenty-one economies of markedly different stages of development and engagement in global trade liberalization. (8) A moratorium on new membership was in effect until 2010; (9) the current members have yet to decide whether to accept any new member economies at this stage.

Each Leaders' meeting since 1993 has resulted in announced outcomes reflecting the members' cooperation in addressing challenges to trade and investment in the Asia-Pacific region. In parallel, the APEC members have also engaged in ongoing efforts on specific sectors and substantive areas and have dealt with issues through Working Groups and other initiatives covering a range of industries and technical matters. (10)

The Working Groups and other technical settings have become places where governments and industry can address specific barriers or other impediments to trade and investment often at a very practical level. …