APEC and Trade Liberalization after Seattle: Transregionalism without a Cause?

Vinod K. Aggarwal

Reforming Economic Systems in Asia: A Comparative Analysis of China, Japan, South Korea, Malaysia and Thailand, 2001

The eruption of protests in the streets of Seattle in November 1999 against the Millenium Round of the World Trade Organization (WTO) marked the peak of anti-globalization fervor. Protesters claimed the WTO is insensitive to the negative externalities produced by free trade on the environment and U.S. labor, and criticized its lack of transparency. While there is considerable debate about the root of the WTO’s problems in Seattle, there is no doubt that the multilateral trading system faces severe challenges. Meanwhile, across the globe in Asia, the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation forum (APEC) was still picking up the pieces left from the Asian crisis of 1997-8. Because APEC and the WTO both pursue free trade, among other goals, and are seen by their members to be inextricably and purposefully linked, we might have expected to see APEC respond to some of the criticisms leveled at the WTO. Indeed, in 1993, APEC proved to be the beneficiary of the impasse in the GATT Uruguay Round, and was invigorated with the creation of annual leaders’ meeting.

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