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From APEC to mega-regionals: the evolution of the Asia-Pacific trade architecture

Solís, M. and Wilson, J.D. (2017) From APEC to mega-regionals: the evolution of the Asia-Pacific trade architecture. The Pacific Review, 30 (6). pp. 923-937.

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Of the recent transformations in the political economy of the Asia-Pacific, one of the most dramatic has been to the region's trade architecture. For many years, Asian government were committed trade multilateralists: pursuing liberalisation either globally through the GATT, or regionally via APEC's model of open regionalism. Underpinned by US and Japanese leadership, this system provided the foundation for the export-driven Asian economic miracle. But since the early twenty-first century, the system has been rapidly transformed. The proliferation of preferential trade agreements has threatened to undermine the cohesiveness of regional trade arrangements. The emergence of WTO-Plus style liberalisation, emphasising services, investment and intellectual property, marks the maturation of a system previously focussed on tariff reduction and manufacturing exports. Since 2011, competition between two ‘mega-regional’ proposals – the Trans-Pacific Partnership and the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership – is also indicative of new splits which cut across traditional developmental divides. Growing geopolitical rivalry between the US and China has also raised question of who will lead the next round of liberalisation in the region. Exploring these new trends, this paper argues the trade architecture of the Asia-Pacific is entering is becoming more contested and fragmented, with major implications for economic regionalism in coming years.

Item Type: Journal Article
Murdoch Affiliation(s): Asia Research Centre
Publisher: Routledge
Copyright: © 2017 Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group
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