Executive summary

  • During the first decade of the 21st century, Asian regionalism was shaped by important new realities, particularly in the emergence of China as an economic and military powerhouse.
  • The symbolic and substantive capstone of the US “pivot” to Asia came with President Obama’s nine-day trip to the region in November 2011.
  • In response to the potential success of the TPP negotiations, China is likely to push for a competing regional economic architecture through RCEP as a less rigorous alternative to the TPP.
DownloadThe United States and East Asian Regionalism: Balancing Economics and Security

Though some critics have claimed that US involvement in Asia has been “episodic and reactive” over the past two decades—spanning the beginning and maturation of a new Asian regionalism—US administrations from both major political parties have adopted and carried out remarkably unified goals. Economic and trade goals have been inextricably linked to broader diplomatic and security interests. The role of individual leadership has also played a crucial role, as the bookend contributions Secretaries of States James Baker and Hillary Clinton make clear. By tracing the evolution of US policy towards an evolving East Asian economic architecture since the late 1980s, the major way stations and policy turning points and a developing contest between trans-Pacific and intra-Asian regional visions will be explored. In the present circumstances, the negotiations for a Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement present a crucial test and challenge for the United States and its trading partners and diplomatic allies, most particularly for Australia. The negotiations stand at the central intersection of trade policy and diplomatic/security policy, and their success or failure will have major strategic repercussions.