Columbia International Affairs Online: Working Papers

CIAO DATE: 12/2010

Asian Economic Integration and Cooperation: Challenges and Ways Forward for Pan-Asian Regionalism

Durgesh K. Rai

November 2010

German Institute of Global and Area Studies


As the Asian economies have grown larger and become more complex, they have also be-come more integrated at both the regional and the subregional level. Yet although economic integration has increased, regionalism in the sense of economic cooperation at both the pan-Asian and subregional levels has lagged behind. Regionalism or economic cooperation in terms of bilateral or multilateral FTAs is a relatively new phenomenon, but one that has in-creased rapidly in recent years. However, the progress of Asian regionalism faces several challenges. Also, the increasing number of FTAs could lead to a "spaghetti-bowl effect" and reduce trade volume instead of increasing it. In addition to resolving the existing challenges, actors in the region need to convert some of the existing FTAs into a broader one that can serve as a hub for further integration. Given the potential economic gains and future eco-nomic dynamism of the region, this paper suggests the pursuit of the Comprehensive Eco-nomic Partnership in East Asia (CEPEA) rather than the East Asia Free Trade Area (EAFTA).