Conclusions and Policy
It is the thesis of this study that developing country elites frame their decisions to cooperate or not to cooperate with initiatives of their respective regional economic organizations in terms of short-term national and personal loss avoidance. Although developing countries are, by definition, economically disadvantaged, concurrent political and societal instability often result in risk avoidance and political and personal survival needs dominating elites' decision making regarding regional participation.
The primary benefits of regional economic integration schemes, however, are long-term and collective in nature. Free trade, customs union, and regional integration theories assert that these utilities derive from enlarged markets, a reduction of trade barriers including tariffs, productive specialization and the achievement of economies of scale, and the rationalization and enhancement of regional infrastructure.
The discrepancies between the framing of utilities associated with questions of regional economic cooperation yield a noncooperative decision in most instances. However, as illustrated in the 1977 Philippine decision to relinquish its territorial claim over Sabah, national and regional interests are not always contradictory. After discussing the conclusions we draw from these cases of developing country elites' decision framing regarding participation in regional economic organizations, we will return to the theoretical literature to ascertain how institutional policies and regional political leadership and entrepreneurship may ameliorate the problem of contradictory framing and ultimately alter the way developing country elites frame their decisions.