East Asia's new economic integration strategy: Moving beyond the FTA
After the Asian currency crisis, a number of cooperative efforts within an ASEAN+3 (APT) framework and Free Trade Agreement (FTA) negotiations between the countries were implemented side-by-side in East Asia.1 An East Asia Summit is scheduled for the end of 2005. If a summit were held, Japan, China, and Korea would be able to participate in regional cooperation along with ASEAN, as equal partners rather than guests, and the discussion about forming a community, the East Asia Community, would reach a new stage.2 However, compared to the largely unobjectionable strengthening of “cooperation,” free trade under an official FTA might require adjusting various economic interests, and there is no guarantee that the merits of free trade will outweigh the costs of these adjustments.3 If for a number of reasons the FTA never goes beyond an APEC-style “voluntarism,” the East Asian economic integration on which the community will be built will be a long time coming. For integration to move steadily forward, a new approach is needed that is different from that of the West and that reflects the political and economic structure of East Asia. This paper addresses the issues and dilemmas that have emerged from the complex FTA negotiations in recent years, and proposes a new integrated approach that reflects the structure of East Asia.