v8n2_08 - Crafting a US Response to the Emerging East Asia...

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The Whitehead Journal of Diplomacy and International Relations Crafting a US Response to the Emerging East Asia Free Trade Area by Christopher Martin F ew would dispute Asias growing economic importance in the 21st century. While China and India have held the spotlight recently, their rise may not constitute the regions most important economic shift. Japan is still by far the richest economy; while South Koreas formidable industries are the envy of many. Furthermore, the ten-country coalition that makes up the Association for Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) boasts such economic dynamos as Singapore and Malaysia. Together, China, Japan, South Korea, and ASEAN (commonly referred to as ASEAN+3) account for 20 percent of global output, nearly 20 percent of global trade, and hold well over 50 percent of the worlds international monetary reserves. Moreover, the region is ripe for growth. It accounted for 31.4 percent of the worlds population in 2005 (more than Europe and the Americas combined) and the IMFs 2008 2011 outlook figure clocked growth at 7.9 percent for Asia, dwarfing the 2.5 percent for major developed countries. How would the worlds economic landscape shift if these thirteen countries were to join together in some form of economic union? More importantly, how should the United States respond to such an event? It is a question the US needs to answer today. In January, the heads of state of the ASEAN+3 countries led the second East Asia Summit (EAS) in Metro Cebu, Philippines. Among other initiatives, ASEAN+3 countries reaffirmed their commitment to examining the possible creation of an East Asia Free Trade Area (EAFTA) between their respective economies, of which a study of feasibility is already underway. With continued uncertainty surrounding the Doha Round of multilateral trade negotiations, the summit included discussion of a regional trade agreement. Host Philippine President Gloria Arroyo declared last August that the East Asian countries must “draw up a collective response to Dohas failure. Though the EAS includes non-East Asian nations like India, Australia, and New Zealand, much of the summit focused on hastening the emergence of agreements between ASEAN+3 countries, where trade negotiations have come the furthest. 1 The summit itself is the culmination of a variety of forces and the indicators are clear; East Asia is quietly coming together. The trend is gaining Christopher Martin is a Policy Manager at the US Council for International Business. The views expressed in this article are his own. Mr. Martin has also served as an Irving B. Harris Fellow at the University of Chicago, and as a Global Policy Fellow at the World Trade Organization in Geneva, where he analyzed special and differential treatment mechanisms under consideration for the Doha Round of trade negotiations.
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