Multilateralising regionalism: what role for the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement?
Capling, A. and Ravenhill, J. (2011) Multilateralising regionalism: what role for the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement? The Pacific Review, 24 (5). pp. 553-575.
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The Asia-Pacific region is home to a large and rapidly growing number of preferential trade agreements (PTAs). These agreements differ widely in design, scope and purpose. The "noodle bowl" that has resulted runs the risk of distorting investment and trade. Neither global institutions (the WTO) nor regional institutions such as the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) grouping have successfully addressed these issues. Amidst this increasingly messy situation, the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement stands out for a range of important economic and political reasons, not least of which is its potential to take existing PTAs in the Asia-Pacific region in a new direction. The aim of the TPP negotiators is to produce a comprehensive, high quality, multi-party agreement to tame the tangle of PTAs and be a potential stepping stone to achieving the goal of liberalizing regional trade on a non-discriminatory basis. The economic gains from removing border barriers among the countries involved in the initial TPP negotiations are likely to be limited, however, given the small size of many of the economies and the existing PTAs among them. To date, the US has been unwilling to offer a single set of arrangements for all TPP partners, preferring to build on existing bilateral agreements. Pessimism about the immediate results from the TPP should be tempered, however, by considerations of the dynamics that it might set in train; on the other hand, it has the potential to divide the region and exacerbate China's concerns about "containment".
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