The Free Trade Area Of The Asia- Pacific: A Constructive Approach To Multilateralizing Asian Regionalism

C. Fred Bergsten, Marcus Noland, Jeffrey J. Schott
JEL codes: 
ADBI Working Paper Series

This paper examines the prospect of realizing regional economic integration via the mechanism
of a Free Trade Area of the Asia-Pacific (FTAAP). The FTAAP initiative represents a politically
ambitious, high potential benefit option for achieving Asian regional integration. Among its
desirable attributes, the FTAAP initiative could help revive and promote a successful conclusion
of the Doha Round negotiations; constitute a “Plan B” hedge if Doha fails; short-circuit the
further proliferation of bilateral and sub-regional preferential agreements that create substantial
new discrimination and discord within the Asia-Pacific region; defuse the renewed risk of
“drawing a line down the middle of the Pacific” as East Asian, and perhaps the Western
Hemisphere, initiatives produce disintegration of the Asia-Pacific region rather than the
integration of that broader region that the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum
was created to foster; channel the People’s Republic of China (PRC)-United States economic
conflict into a more constructive and less confrontational context; and revitalize APEC, which is
of enhanced importance because of the prospects for Asia-Pacific and especially the PRC-US
fissures. An incremental approach to the FTAAP, explicitly embodying enforceable reciprocal
commitments, offers the best hope delivering on the concept’s abundant benefits.