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East Asian Integration: Towards an East Asian Economic Community

Publication | February 2017
East Asian Integration: Towards an East Asian Economic Community

East Asia has the opportunity to build bridges within the region at a time when the United States appears to be building walls around itself.

East Asia is a region of great global significance, currently accounting for around 30% of the global economy by most measures, e.g. production, trade, investment, and finance. It has also become increasingly integrated in various ways. Integration at the micro-level has steadily progressed since the 1960s, as indicated by rising intraregional trade. Moreover, East Asia’s economic regionalisation has become more functionally integrative, this broadly relating to the spread of transnational business and other technical systems where production, trade, and investment have become a function of each other within those systems. For example, as later explored, much of East Asia’s regionalised trade concerns cross-border movement of parts and components within the international production networks of multinational enterprises. Since the 1990s, East Asian states have in addition looked to strengthen regional cooperation and integration intergovernmentally at the macro-level, i.e. involving whole country economies. This has been driven by the need to manage their growing regional economic interdependencies and address future challenges that confront them all, such as globalisation and climate change. As we will discuss, this has been part of regional economic community-building efforts in East Asia, both across the whole region and within it at various subregional levels. We examine the key dimensions of East Asia’s integration, how they have developed over time, and what likely paths lie ahead in the endeavour to strengthen regional economic community-building.