(Re)Negotiating East and Southeast Asia: Region, Regionalism, and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations

By Alice D. BA | Go to book overview

5
Locating ASEAN in East Asia and the Asia Pacific

The changing times do indeed call for new approaches, new
thoughts and attitudes on the part of ASEAN. Otherwise, I’m
afraid that we run the risk of becoming irrelevant to the emerging
new world and regional order.1

Anand Panyarachun
Prime Minister, Thailand 1992

In the area of intra-ASEAN trade cooperation, as in the process of ASEAN expansion, the changing policies and roles of major powers—here, the United States and Japan, as well as China—interacted with rival conceptualizations of region and regionalism to grow a sense of existential threat to ASEAN as a meaningful regional entity. In this case, rival ideas came from without and within—in particular from the Australian-initiated Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation forum (APEC) and Malaysia’s proposed East Asian Economic Group (EAEG). Not only did these initiatives threaten to subsume ASEAN-Southeast Asia into larger regional entities, but they also rivaled ASEAN for states’ attention, thus intensifying fears that ASEAN was losing its relevance among its own members. Such interdependent global and intraregional concerns challenged ASEAN states to rethink established ideas about region and economic regionalism as something more than an exercise in normative relationship building and in more conventional strategic economic terms.

This chapter begins by outlining a succession of global economic developments over the 1980s that contributed to a building sense of anxiety about the global economy on which ASEAN development and state survival is understood to depend. While none, in and of themselves, proved large enough of a shock to produce a new approach to economic cooperation, they and the intra-ASEAN debates they generated did have a cumulative impact on ASEAN states’ decision-making environment. Specifically, they built momentum and a sense of urgency for a new regional approach that would factor large in interpretations of later external catalyzing events—namely, the Maastricht Treaty (signed in 1991, enacted in 1992) and the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA; signed in 1992, ratified in 1993).

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