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Regional Economic Integration in the Asia-Pacific: Current Status and Future Prospects


Leader Shujiro URATA (Waseda University)
Researcher Yukiko FUKAGAWA (Waseda University), Kaoru NABESHIMA (Waseda University),Mireya Solis (The Brookings Institution), Vinod Aggarwal (UC Berkeley)
Term May 2016 – March 2017
Research Outline

 Many countries in the Asia-Pacific region began discussing and negotiating free trade agreements (FTAs) activity in the 21st century, as they saw the stalemate in the multilateral trade negotiation (Doha round) under the World Trade Organization (WTO). Under such circumstances, the countries interested in expanding exports, in order to achieve economic growth, turned their eyes to FTAs. In the early 2000s, countries were establishing bilateral FTAs, but in the second half of the 2000s countries began discussing and negotiating mega-FTAs involving many countries including some major countries.
 The negotiations of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement, which eventually involved 12 APEC countries including the United States, Japan, and Australia, began in March 2010 and the TPP treaty was signed by the negotiating members in February 2016. Currently, the ratification process is under way in 12 countries. The negotiation of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) involving 16 East Asian countries including Japan, China, and India began in April 2013 and it is still under negotiation.The APEC Leaders agreed that the goal of regional economic integration in the Asia-Pacific is the establishment of a Free Trade Area of Asia-Pacific (FTAAP). The United States and China have only joined one of the mega-FTAs, the US in the TPP and China in the RCEP. As such, there is a view that the US and China are competing to obtain a leadership role in the construction of the FTAAP. For Japan, which is involved in both mega-FTAs, an early enactment of these two mega-FTAs is desirable.
 The objective of this project is to examine the strategies for Japan and the US in establishing an FTAAP by analyzing the strategies that have been adopted by Japan, the US, China, and other countries toward mega-FTAs. Specifically, the study will be conducted by examining the official documents on their FTA strategies as well as by conducting interviews with relevant people, which include government officials, representatives from the business and academic circles, and others. One of the outputs of the study may be a proposal for a Japan-US joint strategy toward the establishment of the FTAAP, in light of the possible and likely developments in political and economic areas in the Asia-Pacific. For Japan, the US and other APEC members, it is important to recognize the need to reconstruct the world trading system, which is currently faced with serious challenges.

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