General Issues and Regional Groups
Edited by Miroslav N. Jovanović
Chapter 16: Regional Integration in East Asia
* Richard Pomfret 1 INTRODUCTION In the half-century after the signing of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) in 1947, the global economy saw two major waves of regionalism. First came the initial steps towards Western European integration in the 1950s, which were followed by many ambitious but less successful regional trading arrangements (RTAs) in Latin America and Africa. Then in the 1980s and early 1990s came the CER (Closer Economic Relations between Australia and New Zealand), the Single European Act and creation of the European Union, and the North American Free Trade Agreement. A striking feature of both waves of regionalism was the absence of significant policy-driven regional integration in East Asia. The only RTA, the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN), was a political rather than an economic construct among the non-Communist nations of the region, and its impact on trade flows was minimal. The situation changed dramatically after the 1997–98 Asian crisis. Initially, led by Japan, the region took cautious steps towards monetary integration, culminating in the 2000 Chiang Mai Initiative. Since the turn of the century, a plethora of bilateral and plurilateral RTAs have been signed by East Asian countries. This chapter argues that the extent and nature of regional agreements has been driven by the emergence of regional value chains (RVCs), which were initiated by Japanese multinationals in the late 1980s but since the mid-1990s have been centred around China as well as being driven by Japan. Controlling the agenda for addressing...
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