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The US Struggles in APEC’s Trade Politics: Coalition-Building and Regional Integration in the Asia-Pacific

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Abstract From a perspective of change in the institution’s function, the history of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) can be divided into four periods: 1989–1995, 1996–2001, 2001–2006, and 2007–present. APEC’s activities in each of these periods have been organized around major themes: respectively, the establishment of guidelines for liberalization; the implementation of liberalization measures; security issues such as counter-terrorism; and the establishment of a free trade area. American political will can be seen as a major driving force behind these changes in APEC’s agenda-setting. However, norm setting during the first and second periods encountered objections from China and Japan, respectively. During the third period, the Bush administration’s interest in combating terrorism through APEC was not supported by Asian members, who emphasized APEC’s primary role as a framework for economic cooperation, instead placed higher priorities on East Asian regionalism that excluded the US. In light of this shift, in the fourth period, the US once again urged that APEC should be used as a framework for liberalization and pushed for the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). This period saw the discriminatory, legally-binding and reciprocity-based norms for trade liberalization take root in APEC, resulting largely from the American coalition-building approach through the promotion of the TPP as an existing integration framework. This has helped to create a critical mass while competition with China over regional trade policies becomes more intense, demonstrating the case where the US successfully set its own preferred agenda and norm together for the first time.

Affiliations: 1: Faculty of Law, Doshisha University Karasuma-Higashi-iru, Imadegawa-dori, Kamigyo-ku, Kyoto 602-8580 Japan


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