Regionalism in Asia as Disguised Multilateralism: A Critical Analysis of the East Asia Summit and the Trans-Pacific Partnership
Revolving around the concept of 'Community' or 'community', debate on an Asian region has ostensibly pitted those who proposed an entity limited to East Asia (China, Japan, South Korea and the ten countries of the Association of South East Asian Nations, ASEAN) against those who proposed a much wider region embracing India, North (and, perhaps, South) America, as well as Australasia. Previously these two conceptualisations possessed their eponymous translation in the East Asian Economic Caucus (reincarnated as ASEANþ3) and the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation forum. However, with the creation in 2005 of the East Asian Summit to include India, Australia and New Zealand and, above all, its 2011 enlargement to include the United States and Russia, the contrast between the two conceptualisations of an Asian region has become confused. In order to explain this development, this article suggests that the language of 'region' or 'community' is a discursive smokescreen disguising changes in approaches to multilateralism. An examination of the East Asia Summit, contrasting it with another recent regional project, the Trans Pacific Partnership, suggests that the actors involved are seeking to ensure the primacy of individual nation states in intergovernmental multilateral relations.
Keywords: multilateralism, regionalism, regional integration, Asian community, East Asia Summit, Trans Pacific Partnership