Integrating Regions: Asia in Comparative Context

Integrating Regions: Asia in Comparative Context

Integrating Regions: Asia in Comparative Context

Integrating Regions: Asia in Comparative Context

Synopsis

The proliferation of regional institutions and initiatives in Asia over the past decade is unmatched in any other region of the world. The authors in this collection explore the distinctive features of these institutions by comparing them for the first time to the experience of other regions; from the elaborate institution-building of Europe to the more modest regional projects of the Americas. It is an opportune moment for this reassessment, as the European regional model faces a sovereign debt crisis while Asian economies see more secure sources of growth from their immediate neighbors. Asia's regional institutions display a distinctive combination of decision rules, commitment devices, and membership practices, shaped by underlying features of the region, the dynamics of regional integration, and the availability of institutional substitutes. Within this context, the authors propose changes that will better sustain the prosperity and peace that have marked Asia in recent decades.

Excerpt

Miles Kahler

During three decades of globalization, regional integration and institutions have flourished. in the 1990s, Europe embarked on the Economic and Monetary Union, the United States and its neighbors ratified the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), and the largest economies of South America founded the Common Market of the South (MERCOSUR). Asia seemed to stand apart, producing a trio of regional institutions that were far more modest in scope than their counterparts elsewhere—Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC), the Free Trade Area (AFTA) of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), and the asean Regional Forum (ARF). the Asian financial crisis at the end of the 1990s appeared to mark a turning point, however, exposing the region’s vulnerabilities and the ineffectiveness of its institutions. the first decade of the new century produced three new institutional developments: region-wide economic arrangements, such as asean Plus Three (APT), which were limited to Asian members; innovation in monetary and financial collaboration (APT’s Chiang Mai Initiative and Asian Bond Market Initiative—ABMI), and a proliferation of bilateral and plurilateral preferential trade agreements (PTAs).

Despite this apparent catching-up in Asian institution building, many saw a mismatch between high levels of regional economic interdependence and formal region-wide institutions that continued to lag other regions. An organization gap persisted in Northeast Asia, where multilateral security structures were absent and three of Asia’s largest economies have failed to complete a free trade agreement that would deepen their existing economic links (Calder . . .

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