APEC as an Institution: Multilateral Governance in the Asia-Pacific

By Richard E. Feinberg | Go to book overview

INTRODUCTION

This book is the second major research project of the APEC International Assessment Network (APIAN), the first being Assessing APEC’s Progress: Trade, Ecotech and Institutions (Singapore: Institute of Southeast Asian Studies, 2001). That first effort focused principally upon the substantive agenda of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum, but did include an article by Vinod Aggarwal and Kun-Chin Lin on “APEC as an Institution”. Aggarwal and Lin concluded that “the most significant contributions of APEC have been in agenda-setting and socialization of member economies into the acceptance of global norms and principles” (p. 178) — and that institutional weaknesses have limited APEC’s ability to fulfill its more ambitious substantive goals in the areas of trade and investment liberalization and integration, economic and technical cooperation and capacity building. Drawing on questionnaires circulated to experts throughout the Asia-Pacific as well as their own research, Aggarwal and Lin found a credibility gap between APEC’s formal agenda and goals and its institutional capacities to realize them.

APIAN’s first policy report, Learning From Experience (November 2000), began to tackle APEC’s institutional structure. It recognized that APEC’s institutional weaknesses were not haphazard but rather were purposeful acts by those present at the creation. For reasons deeply imbedded in the history and structure of the Asia-Pacific, APEC’s founding members preferred a relatively loose organizational structure that would not be able to impose its collective will upon reluctant members, but rather would respect national sovereignties. APEC was organized around the core principles of consensus, voluntarism, and unilateralism — and eschewed binding agreements with strict timetables that could be

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