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Towards an East Asian Community? What ASEM and APEC can tell us

Nuria Okfen

CSGR Working Paper No. 117/03

June 2003




The idea of an East Asian community is not a new one. Since the 1990s, it has gained considerable influence among regional policy makers. The initiation of the ASEAN 3 process as well as the Chiang Mai Initiative (CMI) indicate that Northeast and Southeast Asians have begun to formulate their own co-operative mechanisms of regional self-help. However, the rapid proliferation of bilateral and sub-regional preferential trade agreements in recent years does not correspond to the logic of building a collective East Asian identity. This paper examines the origins of the major barriers to community-building in East Asia. It challenges the common wisdom derived from constructivist theory that East Asia's political integration and its collective identity will evolve more or less automatically as long as East Asians interact with one another on various levels and through various channels and by adhering to shared norms.

Keywords: ASEM, APEC, East Asian community, ASEAN norms, regional integration

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