Columbia International Affairs Online: Policy Briefs

CIAO DATE: 12/2014

The Asia-Pacific Cooperation Agenda: Moving from Regional Cooperation Toward Global Leadership,

Charles E. Morrison

October 2014

East-West Center


In the past quarter-century Asia has seen vast changes, including increased economic growth, integration, and liberalization. The Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) process, now marking its 25th anniversary, facilitated these changes through its institution of the first regular meetings of ministers and then leaders. But what role should APEC play in the future? With a continuing diffusion of power, what was once hailed as an imminent "Asian century" is much more likely to be a global one. This international system, however, will have a trans-Pacific core with much of the economic power and potential to provide global leadership for the further development of international norms, rules, and cooperation. Thus, we may be able to refer to an "Asia-Pacific century." Two questions arise: Is North America, with a relatively small share of global population and a declining share of global world product, still relevant? Will the nations on the two sides of the Pacific really be able to use their power effectively to assume global leadership? The answer to the first of these is "yes," and to the second, "it depends."