Paths ahead for East Asia and Asia-Pacific regionalism

Christopher M. Dent*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (journal)peer-review

30 Citations (Scopus)


East Asia and the Asia-Pacific are core components of the global economy, and there have been important recent developments in the regionalism of both regions. After the 1997-1998 financial crisis, East Asian countries initiated more exclusive regional cooperation and integration ventures mainly through ASEAN Plus Three, but lately this process has stumbled. The Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum has also failed to make substantial progress. Attention has instead increasingly turned to free trade agreements (FTAs), yet these have hitherto been overwhelmingly bilateral in nature. There are still only a few truly regional FTAs in East Asia and the Asia-Pacific-and these are on a sub-regional scale. However, various frustrations over the messy and fractious pattern of heterogeneous bilateral agreements led to the recent initiation of 'grand regional' FTA talks. The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) is an Asia-Pacific-based, United States-led project while the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) is an East Asia-centred project. Each contains highly diverse memberships and the successful conclusion of TPP and RCEP talks is not assured. It is argued that, if negotiated, the RCEP is more likely to advance meaningful and effective regionalism than the TPP due to the former ascribing more importance to regional community-building. Furthermore, bilateral FTAs already in force may over the long term transform into more comprehensive economic agreements that address new regional and global challenges such as energy security and climate change.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)963-985
Number of pages23
JournalInternational Affairs
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 12 Jul 2013


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