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U.S. Free Trade Agreements in East Asia: Politics, Economics, and Security Policy in the Bush Administration

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  • Stephen Hoadley

Abstract

The Bush Administration has initiated nearly two dozen bilateral and bi-multilateral free trade agreements (FTAs) in the past six years. These FTAs are valued as not only advancing U.S. economic interests but also serving foreign policy and security interests. Their perceived utility as new foreign policy instruments emerged in the wake of the stagnation of multilateral trade liberalization deliberations in the WTO forum and was amplified by the exigencies of the U.S. war on terrorism launched in 2001. The FTA phenomenon is a manifestation of a pragmatic realist neo-mercantilist approach. U.S. FTA initiatives in Asia are driven primarily by economic interests, but this article points out that security interests are also significant. An FTA with Singapore, in which security elements were implicit alongside the explicit economic aims, was an early success. But opposition to U.S. proposals by national actors and interest groups in Thailand, Malaysia, South Korea and other potential FTA partners is substantial and progress is slow. The resulting agreements are likely to fall short of WTO-plus comprehensiveness, and may be marred by carve-outs and prolonged phase-ins. U.S. employment of FTAs in Asia is best seen as an extension of familiar policy efforts to protect or advance U.S. economic interests in a _uid political-economic arena. But these FTAs are not likely to alter the pattern of hegemony in Asia.

Suggested Citation

  • Stephen Hoadley, 2007. "U.S. Free Trade Agreements in East Asia: Politics, Economics, and Security Policy in the Bush Administration," Journal of Current Southeast Asian Affairs, Institute of Asian Studies, GIGA German Institute of Global and Area Studies, Hamburg, vol. 26(1), pages 52-76.
  • Handle: RePEc:gig:soaktu:v:15:y:2007:i:1:p:52-76
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