From Cornell International Affairs Review VOL. 10 NO. 1
The ASEAN Experience, Northeast Asia and Beyond: Free Trade and Economic Integration
Summary and Conclusion
The ASEAN Economic Community provides a very good example of how successful economic integration in a diverse region can be pursued. An integrated economic regional outfit provides both powerful economic benefits and security externalities, which are goals that the AEC can help advance. Northeast Asia can also benefit from the creation of a Northeast Asian Economic Community, as earlier mentioned. To pave the way for success, three lessons can be gleaned and adapted by Northeast Asia to enhance an economic community's viability. To that end, ASEAN's emphasis on negotiation and consensus building has helped them to pursue economic integration. Specifically, the AEC's ability to reduce the obstacles of dumping, protectionism and problems associated with mobility of labour were discussed. These are lessons relevant to Northeast Asia.
Based on the essential similarities between Northeast Asia and Southeast Asia, the benefits enjoyed by the latter can also be expected in Northeast Asia if a similar economic community is created there. The lessons learnt from AEC in dealing with dumping, protectionism, and unregulated labor movements are valuable experiences for Northeast Asia. Yet, the region has some unique problems that need to be resolved in order for an integrated economic community to be created. These problems include the lack of regional political institution and complicated international relations. Still, these problems can be resolved if member states can constructively utilise existing platforms, such as the East Asian Summit and the ASEAN+3 Summit. This paper has deliberately not engaged the political dimension of inter-state relations in detail, since much scholarly effort has been devoted towards explaining this aspect of the region's relational dynamics. Instead, this paper has sought to argue that economic integration can be a major stepping-stone that supplies and reinforces the logic of cooperation and regional peace. The economic route to regional stability may not come without its own limitations. However, in the absence of more feasible alternatives that are empirically superior, economic integration stands out as an option with great promise for future East Asian relations. If economics can facilitate regional peace, incentivize member states to set aside political differences and help to raise their collective societal happiness, then Northeast Asia should work towards greater economic integration – with some help from the AEC on how economic disputes can be reconciled through consensus building and concordant political will.
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