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Competing Templates in Asia Pacific Economic Integration
Region: Asia
Theme: Economics
Published June 7, 2012
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Nearly two decades have passed since the last major multilateral trade agreements were concluded in 1993—a gap already longer than any since the GATT/WTO system emerged in 1948. Action on trade rules has instead shifted to bilateral and regional agreements; for example, at the time of the Uruguay accords there were three trade agreements in force among APEC economies while today there are forty-one (and more are in the works). This shift is due to multiple forces and it is likely to persist.1 In the Asia Pacific, the shift to regional agreements has generated two major, controversial initiatives: an Asian track of negotiations centered on ASEAN, and a trans-Pacific track centered on the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement, including the United States. The Asian track aims to deepen economic relationships among Asian economies, but it has also been viewed as an effort to reduce America’s historically important role in Asia. The TPP would strengthen ties between Asia and the Americas and create a new template for the conduct of international trade, but it has also been described as an American effort to encircle China. To make matters more complicated, each track could lead to a Free Trade Area of the Asia Pacific (FTAAP) comprising countries on both tracks.

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