At their meeting last week, APEC leaders announced intentions to negotiate a Free Trade Area of the Asia-Pacific (FTAAP) by 2020. Emmanuel lists reasons to think it’s empty rhetoric:
Again, there is much reason for scepticism. How can the US complete a deal with nine participants when it cannot even complete a bilateral arrangement with South Koreaafter three years, for example? Recall, too, that the Bogor Goals are well off track. The text of the 1994 Leaders’ Declaration says APEC’s achievements should include “the industrialized economies achieving the goal of free and open trade and investment no later than the year 2010 and developing economies no later than the year 2020.” 2010 is about to end, yet agricultural protectionism remains rife in the likes of the US and Japan. As for the Doha Development Round, forget about it since most of the rest of the world already has.
Importantly, remember that this is not the first time the US has tabled the FTAAP idea. Alike the Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA), FTAAP has singularly failed to find adherents. Ah well, hope always springs eternal for some.
I don’t see how the FTAAP’s prospects have improved since 2007, which is the last time I discussed the proposal, echoing the skepticism of Chris Dent and Jagdish Bhagwati. That year, Vinod Aggarwal laid out the skeptical case (pdf) at length in a chapter titled “The Political Economy of a Free Trade Area of the Asia-Pacific: A U.S. Perspective” in An APEC Trade Agenda?.
Jonathan, the novelty here is of “equifinality.” Though there may be many proposed paths to FTAAP–ASEAN+3, East Asian Community, or the US-sponsored Trans-Pacific Partnership–we’ll eventually get there and APEC will support whichever effort (supposedly).
I think the main US interest is to avoid locking itself in an integration project that may not succeed, but to keep itself open to whichever does succeed as long as it doesn’t exclude the US.
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