Circling the Wagons: Economic Integration and its Consequences for Asia

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Issues and Studies


Politics and Government


Despite recent setbacks in Europe and the current uncertainty of political transition in the United States, trends toward economic regionalism in Europe and North America will continue and perhaps even hasten in the 1990s. This "circling of the wagons" has prompted increasing numbers of East Asian countries to consider similarly integration. However, for a variety of reasons, the degree and in fact the type of integration likely to occur in East Asia in this last decade of the twentieth century will be very different from its American and European counterparts.

In short, (1) historical legacies (distrust of Japanese hegemony outside Japan and reluctance within Japan to bear hegemonic public goods; (2) situational imperatives (disparities among the various countries); and (3) heterogenous economic ties (dependencies on markets external to the region) will lead to a hybrid regional integration in East Asia characterized by multilateral arrangements. In reaching this conclusion, this article first defines trading blocs and briefly examines their occurrence in Europe and North America. It next reviews both natural trends and intentional efforts in Asia toward the formation of an Asian-Pacific bloc. The final section examines the obstacles to region-wide integration and the distinctive form of Asian regionalism presently emerging.--SCAD summary.