The International Political Economy of ASEAN Economic Integration and Bilateral FTAs

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Important issues are arising in the relationship between bilateral free trade agreements (FTAs) and economic regionalism in Southeast Asia. Both forms and levels of integration have made significant progress over recent years. Region-wide integrational projects at the macro-level have included the ASEAN Free Trade Area (AFTA), Initiative for ASEAN Integration (IAI) and the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC). This has been underpinned by micro-level regionalisation (e.g. international production networks) and meso-level sub-regional projects such as growth polygons. Singapore and Thailand have been ASEAN s pathfinder states in developing bilateral FTAs with various trade partners. It is argued that FTA bilateralism poses certain complications with regard to advancing regional community-building in Southeast Asia because, unlike region-wide projects like AFTA and the IAI, there are not based on the principles of inclusion and equity of interest. Moreover, while multi-level economic integration is the reality in Southeast Asia, bilateral FTAs have the potential to significantly exacerbate the development divide in the region, and as well as stir tensions in intra-ASEAN relations generally.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)51-75
Number of pages25
JournalJournal of Current Southeast Asian Affairs
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2007


  • Trade
  • Free trade agreements
  • Southeast Asia
  • Regional integration
  • Regionalism


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