In 2004 and 2006, proposals were made at APEC summits to establish a Free Trade Area of the Asia-Pacific (FTAAP). This was an essentially a reworking of an idea first raised in the mid-1960s to create a Pacific Free Trade Area, or PAFTA. Although the PAFTA initiative never advanced, it helped lay the first organizational foundations for regional economic community building in the Asia-Pacific. The recent FTAAP proposal thus brings us full circle to the antecedent origins of APEC itself. If realized, an FTAAP would also create a free trade zone that would encircle the Pacific Rim economy and thereby subsume the region's now large number of bilateral and sub-regional free trade agreements (FTAs) into one unified agreement. Yet there are many inherent problems with establishing an FTAAP. These broadly relate to deconstructing the preferentialism of existing bilateral and sub-regional FTAs, achieving a consensus on the technical policy content and ideational principles on which an FTAAP would be based, and addressing various geopolitical issues such as reconciling the formation of a pan-regional Asia-Pacific FTA with an already fragile multilateral trading system. Growing interest in a 'rival' East Asia Free Trade Area project presents another geopolitical challenge. In considering these and other questions, it is concluded that many obstacles will remain in the path to realizing an FTAAP, and that this may not actually be a desirable objective to pursue for some time yet.
- Free trade agreement
- Regional trade agreement/area