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Resource security: A new motivation for free trade agreements in the Asia-Pacific region

Wilson, J.D. (2012) Resource security: A new motivation for free trade agreements in the Asia-Pacific region. The Pacific Review, 25 (4). pp. 429-453.

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Following a historical commitment to multilateralism, in the last decade the trade policy initiatives of many states in the Asia-Pacific have turned to bilateralism through the negotiation of free trade agreements (FTAs). The corresponding proliferation of regional FTAs has thus far been understood to result from three broad motivations: a desire to advance trade liberalization beyond World Trade Organization (WTO) disciplines; mercantilistic efforts to secure preferential access to key export markets; and/or attempts to use FTAs to secure non-economic political gains. This paper argues that since the middle of the decade a new motive has emerged - the use of FTAs to improve resource security - particularly by import-dependent resource consumers in Northeast Asia. As yet unexamined in the literature, this paper seeks to document and explain this trend. It analyses the recent emergence of resource security concerns as a new FTA motive; the corresponding shifts in the FTA strategies and initiatives of Japan, Korea and China; and the dynamics of an emerging race for resource-related FTAs between the three governments. Based on this analysis, it demonstrates that resource-related FTAs could potentially improve consumers' resource security through either the liberalization of trade, the extension of investment protections or broader diplomatic gains with the targeted supplier. However, owing to supplier reluctance to enter into binding policy commitments for resource industries, their track record shows success in only the diplomatic dimension, and the prospects for a strengthening of their effects are poor. As a result, it is argued that while resource concerns have become a key motive for FTA initiatives in the Asia-Pacific region, they have not substantively improved resource security for its import-dependent states and are unlikely to do so in the future.

Item Type: Journal Article
Murdoch Affiliation(s): School of Social Sciences and Humanities
Publisher: Routledge
Copyright: © 2012 Copyright Taylor and Francis Group, LLC.
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