Building international institutions in Asia-Pacific

TitleBuilding international institutions in Asia-Pacific
Publication TypeJournal Article
AuthorsAggarwal, VK

This article draws on literature on international institutions to examine developments in two significant Asia-Pacific forums, PECC and APEC. Although hegemonic stability theory has often been used to examine institutional formation, I argue that other significant factors have and will affect developments in the Asia-Pacific region. Based on a theoretical framework that identifies ther interaction between governance structures and economic transactions.

Three types of governance structures:

1.)   Regimes – specific rules and procedures. Three dimensions:

  • Strength (stringency of rules regulating state behavior)
  • Nature (degree of openness promoted by the agreement)
  • Scope (number of issues incorporated in the regime and number of actors involved).

2.)   Meta-regimes – norms and principles underlying international arrangements (note the splitting of the conventional definition of regimes. Meta-regimes as norms and principles; regimes as rules and procedures)

3.)   National actions: Unilaterial Controls and Bilateral Accords

Theoretical elements accounting for governance structures:

1.)   Cognitive approach – focuses on supply of consensual knowledge and political demands by policymakers. Directly affects formation of the meta-regime.

2.)   Structural factors – on the supply side, not just the presence of a hegemon but also the question of a given regime’s compatibility with the existing security, trade and economic systems. On the demand side, regimes can help reduce transaction costs. Also, attempt to bring more specific arrangements into conformity with broader institutions (institutional nesting cf. Aggarwal, 1998). Additionally, actors may prefer to use rules rather than power to control others’ behavior. This is because the trading system nests within the international economic and strategic/security systems. Strategic considerations may preclude the use of force to get a state to make concessions, but a regime allows actors to do so without having to resort to force, allowing them to maintain compliance with broader regime norms.

3.)   Domestic political factors

4.)   Changes in technology, organization and tastes, influencing supply and demand for goods and services.

Proto-Regimes in Asia-Pacific: APEC and PECC.

Both APEC and PCC have made special efforts to maintain consistency with the GATT.

Meta-Regime Formation

Central principles promoted by PECC and moderately promoted by APEC has been the idea of open regionalism, which encourages regional liberalization while maintaining consistency with GATT. More open than GATT itself. Norms include:

  • "inclusive MFN":
  • strong norm of liberalism.
  • diffuse reciprocity
  • multilaterialism

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