Evolution of the Asia-Pacific Trade Architecture: Stocktake and Future Outlook


APEC Study Centre, University of Auckland, Auckland, New Zealand


APEC Study Centre, University of Auckland, Auckland, New Zealand     Abstract:   One of the key sets of questions underlying Asia Pacific economic cooperation over the last decade has been over the nature and form of the regional trade architecture that would gradually emerge from the turmoil of the Asia-Pacific “noodle bowl” of bilateral and plurilateral FTAs, and how that architecture would accommodate the separate impulses of East Asian and trans-Pacific economic integration.   Calls for East Asian economic integration took center-stage in the wake of the East Asian economic crisis of 1997/98, and were quickly reflected in the proposal for an East Asian Free Trade Area (EAFTA) based on the ASEAN plus Three groups. The subsequent development of the so-called “ASEAN Plus One” FTAs both provided a feasible way forward in the absence of a politically viable basis for integration among the major Northeast Asian economies, and also entrenched the idea of East Asian economic integration as an “ASEAN-centered” process. Japan’s proposal for a Comprehensive Economic Partnership for East Asia (CEPEA), based on an ASEAN plus Six groups of countries that comprised the then membership of the East Asian Summit (EAS), subsequently provided an alternative configuration for a region-wide trade bloc based on East Asia. Since then the EAFTA and CEPEA initiatives have moved forward in parallel, but no agreement has been reached to commence formal negotiations in either case.   This paper has presented the state of play and future outlook for each of the three initiatives as they appeared at the time of the 2010 APEC leaders’ meeting. This has been followed by a discussion of developments in these initiatives in 2011, as well as possible implications for these initiatives of developments in other arenas. JEL Classification : F15, F19.