Asia-Pacific regionalism versus globalization
Competing forms of capitalism 1
It is only recently that some of the countries within the Asia-Pacific—East and South-East Asia—have begun to think of themselves as forming a coherent region. There is a growing sense that while there are clearly differences among these countries there are also a number of important similarities which have produced an increasingly vigorous ‘Asian consciousness and identity’ (Funabashi 1993:75). The notion that there is a shared set of values and attitudes with regard to economic and political issues which may be found within the Asia-Pacific region has variously been referred to as ‘neo-Asianism’, the ‘Pacific Way’ and the ‘Asian view’ (Nikkei Weekly, 17 January 1994; Mahbubani 1995:100-11; Naya and Iboshi 1994). The prime minister of Malaysia, Dr Mahathir Mohamad, was even prompted into proposing the formation of an East Asian Economic Caucus (EAEC) to provide a forum for the governments of East and South-East Asia to discuss regionally significant issues (Low 1991; Higgott and Stubbs 1995:522-6). And although the EAEC has not been fully developed, there are other signs that on particular issues an East and Southeast Asian grouping of states is emerging (Bowles 1997).
There are three reasons for this growing sense of an Asia-Pacific regionalism. First, foreign direct investment (FDI) and trade have become increasingly regionalized. The wave of Japanese FDI that swept through the region following the Plaza Accord of 1985 and the subsequent revaluation of the yen, when combined with the later wave of Taiwanese, South Korean and Singaporean FDI, have fostered the growth of a large number of production networks throughout the Asia-Pacific that have served to knit the region together (Bernard and Ravenhill 1995:179-88). Similarly, while the US and, to a lesser extent, Europe remain major markets for goods produced in the Asia-Pacific, intra-regional trade is increasing rapidly (Asia Development Bank 1992:61-3). Second, the advent of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), which set the stage for a North American economic region, and the Single European Act (SEA) and the Maastricht Treaty, which created the Single European Market and European Union (EU), forced the Asia-Pacific region to think of itself as a region in contradistinction to North America and Europe.