Managing the Noodle Bowl: The Fragility of East Asian Regionalism
The paper argues that East Asian regionalism is fragile because (i) each nation's industrial competitiveness depends on the smooth functioning of "Factory Asia" - in particular for intraregional 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, to ensure that bilateral trade tensions - tensions that are inevitable in East Asia - do not spill over 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 leading the way. The first priority should be to bind the region's unilateral tariff cuts into the WTO.
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