Critically evaluate the Asia-Pacific Economic Co-operation (APEC) forum’s attempts to enhance regional economic integration in the Asia-Pacific.
The Asia-Pacific Economic Co-operation (APEC) was created in 1989 as a regional discussion forum for fostering “closer economic relations within the region through inter-governmental consultations and other non-binding mechanisms.” (Dent, 2007:449). To a large extent the forum echoed “many decades of proceeding ideas and initiatives on Pacific regional community-building.”(Dent, 2008:120). One factor in APEC’s formation arose from the situation at the end of the Cold War whereby there was a growing market-driven economic interdependence which “created fresh opportunities for regionalism.”
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However, many of the Asian member states were much less committed and viewed the EPG initiative as “a departure from APEC’s original aims of promoting informal economic co-operation rather than commercial liberalization.” (Dent, 2010:38). “Most of which moreover wished to maintain some kind of trade protection in strategic or infant industries for developmental purposes.” (Dent, 2008:125) There was much concern over perceived Western states’ aspirations towards trade liberalisation to the extent that they wanted to “avoid APECs evolution into yet another forum in which Western governments could attack their trading policies.” (Ravenhill, 2001:321). Arguments from Western members that APEC should endeavour to be similar in concept to a ‘GATT/WTO Plus’ reinforced these fears . (Ravenhill, 2001: 238). In addition to the apparent lack of interest by Asian states over trade liberalisation, there was considerable disappointment with EPG’s lack of emphasis and success with their Ecotech and Trade facilitation measures which was supposedly their preferred focus.
Differences in opinion soon arose over the Modus Operandi of ‘open regionalism’ on which the Bogor Goals were to be achieved.(Dent, 2008:126). In principle, open regionalism meant “APEC members would open up their economies in a unilateral and non-discriminatory manner not