European and Asian integration processes compared
A retrospective analysis of European integration shows how political factors and economic opportunities/constraints have interacted in the progressive design of an unprecedented form of federalism. Political reconciliation of former enemies (France and Germany), modesty of the first steps of economic integration (market for steel and coal, then of manufactured goods, prolonged by an extension to agricultural products), creation of an institution in charge of defending the common market and the general interest of Europe as such (European Commission), trial and error process in order to preserve the single European market in the era of financial instability (from EMS to euro), progressive building of political institutions in order to get legitimacy an approval by the citizen (European Parliament). Should the same strategy and criteria apply for contemporary economic integration processes, as observed in Latin-American (Nafta versus Mercosur) but also in Asia? Can an economic integration take place at the only intiative of multinational firms and is it possible to build new supranational coordinating mechanisms in the era of financial globalization? Paradoxically enough, regional integration is more necessary than ever but it has never been so difficult to achieve. The paper concludes that, given the current instability of global finance, the promotion of regional monetary stability and an adequate management of short term capital flows might be the required starting points for contemporary integration processes.
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