pacific forum History of Pacific Forum

Issues & Insights Vol. 10 – No. 12

After a decade of rising regionalist aspirations and a flurry of community-building initiatives, the past year and a half has seen a slight shift in the momentum and direction of Asian regionalism.   While the signing of regional free trade agreements continues and discussions on regional cooperative mechanisms proceed, the perceptions and political goals of many in the region have been recalibrated in the face of new challenges and new opportunities. By far, the biggest challenge was the global economic crisis, which had a mixed impact on Asian regionalism. New opportunities arose with the election of new political leaders in Australia, Japan, and the US, each of whom placed regional initiatives high on their political agenda. On the ground, however, progress on achieving tangible cooperation in regional frameworks, both trans-Pacific and East Asian, has been meager at best.  The global economic crisis gave rise to the G20 that, while elevating the symbolic weight of Asian economies in global governance, has also created institutional competition for regional frameworks.  Regional economic integration faces emerging and unresolved challenges, while effective frameworks for multilateral security cooperation remain elusive.