The 1990s have witnessed emergence of strong regional trading blocs in different parts of the world led by EU’s Single Market and NAFTA among others. Asia has lagged behind in this trend. However, currently there is great interest in Asia in the potential of regional economic integration for exploiting their synergies for mutual benefit as evident from proliferation of initiatives at sub-regional and bilateral FTAs in the region especially those between ASEAN and its dialogue partners, viz. Japan, China, South Korea and India. From these attempts a virtual Asian economic community is emerging. However, the sub-regional and bilateral FTAs have their limitations in fully exploiting the potential of regional economic integration and in providing a seamless market to Asian businesses to become more competitive and productive. It is therefore widely believed that Asia needs a broader pan-Asian framework for regional economic cooperation that could evolve in a phased manner.
The East Asia Summit (EAS) is an important event for initiating a broader
architecture for regional cooperation in Asia. The EAS participating
economies combine between them the largest and most dynamic economies
of Asia namely Japan, ASEAN-10, China, S. Korea, and India, and also
Australia and New Zealand. Such a participation gives EAS an opportunity
to launch the process of formation of an Asian grouping that could be
expanded in future to evolve into an Asian Economic Community.
It will be useful to Asian policy makers and scholars looking for a
vision for making the 21st Century an Asian century.