MANAGING THE NOODLE BOWL: THE FRAGILITY OF EAST ASIAN REGIONALISM
RICHARD E. BALDWIN
The paper argues that East Asian regionalism is fragile, since (i) each nation's industrial competitiveness depends on the smooth functioning of "Factory Asia" â in particular, on intra-regional trade; (ii) the unilateral tariff-cutting that created "Factory Asia" is not subject to WTO discipline (bindings); (iii) there is no "top-level management" to substitute for WTO discipline, i.e., to ensure that bilateral trade tensions â tensions that are inevitable in East Asia â do not spillover into region-wide problems due to lack of cooperation and communication. This paper argues that the window of opportunity for East Asian "vision" was missed; what East Asia needs now is "management", not vision. East Asia should launch a "New East Asian Regional Management Effort", with a reinforced ASEAN + 3 being the most likely candidate for the job. The first priority should be to bind the region's unilateral tariff cuts in the WTO.
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