Analyzing Institutional Transformation in the Asia-Pacific

Vinod K. Aggarwal

Asia-Pacific Crossroads: Regime Creation and the Future of APEC, 1998

The development of the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation forum (APEC) in 1989 has been greeted with a combination of hope and skepticism. Unlike many regions of the world, regional institutions in Asia, and particularly the Asia-Pacific, have been scarce. With East Asian economic success, the end of the Cold War, and shifts in power among Asian states, many see APEC as a much-needed institution that will facilitate economic cooperation in the region. For some analysts, this institution will provide a mechanism to increase economic liberalization in the region and bolster the World Trade Organization’s (WTO) efforts to reduce impediments to trade. A few have suggested that this forum could provide a means to go beyond economic issues, and foster security cooperation in the region as well.

A more skeptical group of analysts views APEC as unnecessary or even as positively harmful. Some note that the Asia-Pacific region has been the most dynamic region in the world economy–in the absence of a formalized institution. For them, APEC will do little to facilitate economic growth in the region. More pessimistically, others argue that by encouraging further regionalization of the world economy, APEC will undermine global economic institutions, leading to regional-based competition and conflict.

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