Sequencing Regionalism: Theory, European Practice, and Lessons for Asia
Spontaneous cooperation that created "Factory Asia" has not been codified. Using feedback mechanisms could be a starting point for Asian regional institutions to institutionalize the existing cooperation on trade, services, and investment.
Feedback mechanisms are the key to sequencing when it comes to regional integration; can mean that today's policy or institution alters the political-economy landscape in a way that makes it politically optimal for future governments to take further steps toward integration—even when these steps are not politically optimal from today's perspective. After outlining the theory, the paper uses feedback mechanisms to organize Europe's postwar integration narrative, and then draws lessons for today's integration of East Asia. The paper suggests that the spontaneous cooperation that created "Factory Asia" has not been codified. One starting point for Asian regional institutions would be to institutionalize the spontaneous cooperation that already exists on trade, services, and investment. New, creative thinking is needed on the sort of soft-law commitments and new modes of cooperation that would make this work with limited sovereignty pooling.