The world has witnessed significant changes in its economic and strategic landscape since the Cold War era. In today’s multipolar system, states have a variety of partners that they can choose to engage. Also, globalization has not only deepened economic interdependency but also made several issues transnational. Increasing linkages heighten the importance of international cooperation to tackle existing problems. East Asia—comprised of the ten states in ASEAN, China, Japan, and South Korea—is no exception.
This chapter focuses on ASEAN’s perspective regarding the prospect of constructing a regional architecture—a subject deserving study because the organization has been influential in shaping a series of cooperative initiatives. Ignoring this viewpoint renders any understanding of the development of East Asian economic regionalism incomplete. Also, if unable to grasp the general picture of regional governance, policymakers may fail to provide feasible policy recommendations toward future pathways. I analyze ASEAN’s viewpoint on three issue areas—trade, finance, and physical infrastructure—since they contain the most advanced initiatives in East Asia. Moreover, recent developments such as the emergence of mega-free trade agreements (mega-FTAs) and the establishment of the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) can affect the future course of cooperation.
Following this introduction, part 1 identifies major issues ASEAN must ponder in order to effectively respond to the changing environment, part 2 shows how ASEAN has addressed these matters as well as its role in affecting the future of East Asian economic architecture in the realm of trade, finance, and infrastructure development, and part 3 offers conclusions and suggests some opportunities for future research. Of course, any attempt to treat ASEAN as a unitary actor cannot replace recognition of its diverse state actors.