Prospects for US-led economic partnership agreement remain vague, with multiple obstacles laying ahead
With a third round of negotiations scheduled to be held in Brunei in October, the Trans-Pacific Strategic Economic Partnership Agreement (TPP) still faces ambiguity in promoting its intentions.
Originally signed by Brunei, Chile, New Zealand and Singapore in 2005, the TPP is now expanded to the United States, Australia, Peru and Vietnam after two rounds of talks, with the US playing a leading role.
According to its institutional arrangement, the TPP is open to all countries in the Asia-Pacific region and its final goal is to develop into a de facto Asia-Pacific free trade area. Given that its members are scattered across America, Asia and Oceania with different economic development levels, the US-dominated TPP membership expansion is driven more by political factors than by economic links.
The high-profile push by the US for the TPP's expansion is largely attributed to Washington's eagerness to reverse its self-alleged marginalization in the booming economic integration of East Asia. Since the eruption of the Asian financial crisis, economic integration in this region has made leaps forward. The summit meetings between the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and China (10 plus one), between ASEAN and Japan, the Republic of Korea (ROK) as well as China (10 plus three), and the East Asia Summit (EAS), have been successively established.
The long-awaited free trade areas between the 10-member bloc with China, the ROK and Japan have also been separately put into operation. The trade volume within the 10 plus three framework has occupied more than half of every member's foreign trade, higher than that in the North American Free Trade Agreement Area.
Having felt a sense of marginalization from the East Asian integration process, the US attempts to utilize such a trans-Pacific agreement to cover all of the region's members and create a platform to extricate itself from the current dilemma.