The Regional Economic Agenda: Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation and North American Free Trade
The changes in the international economic order in the 1980s gave a new sense of urgency to the study of international institutions, which once more became fashionable. 1 These changes included: the strains and tensions emanating from a re-emergence of economic nationalism; the growth of the new protectionism; the erosion in the international trading system associated with the weakening of GATT; and the waning of the economic and political leadership of the great powers. One of the principal manifestations of these changes was the rise of geographically defined economic regions, or blocs, in Western Europe, North America, and Asia. Another was the emergence, in the 1980s, of different forms of economic cooperation between states, such as bilateral free trade agreements or regional integrated markets. And we also saw the rise of markedly different economic outlooks, both positive, outward-looking, and trade-inducing, and negative, defensive, and trade-restricting.
This chapter does not seek to rehearse well-worn arguments about these broader tendencies in the global economic order. 2 Rather, our focus is on international economic cooperation-building and the role of Australia and Canada in that process. We examine the evolution of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) initiative of the late 1980s and Australia's role in it. But we also contrast the options open to Australia in regional economic cooperation with those available to Canada, demonstrating that Australian interests in APEC and Canadian interests in a North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) had, fundamentally, the same roots.
By way of contrast to the discussion of the multilateral trading agenda, we pay particular attention to the question of leadership in the