For the past two weeks, NAFTA and APEC have dominated the news. As the global economy expands, we are increasingly exposed to stories about how it works. So here’s a lexicon of key institutional players in the Asia-Pacific region, the newest region on America’s international radar screen.
- APEC: The Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum met in Seattle on November 15-20, where President Clinton hosted the first-ever summit of Asia-Pacific leaders. Established in 1989, APEC is a government-to-government association of 17 Asia-Pacific nations: three North American countries (US, Canada, Mexico), six ASEAN nations (Singapore, Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Brunei), the three Chinas (PRC, Hongkong, Taiwan), two Northwest Pacific powerhouses (Japan and South Korea), and three South Pacific island nations (Australia, New Zealand, Papua, New Guinea).
- ASEAN: The six-nation (see above) Association of Southeast Asian Nations was established in 1967 as an anti-communist bloc. It is now an influential diplomatic group dedicated to promoting regional cooperation, trade and economic development.
- Asian Tigers: The rapidly growing industrial economies of South Korea, Taiwan, Hong Kong, and Singapore. Nipping their heels are Little Dragons — the developing economies of Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia.
- EAEC: The East Asia Economic Caucus, promoted in 1990 by Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohammed to counterbalance the 12-nation European Community (EC) and NAFTA, would exclude “non-Asian” Pacific Rim nations.EAEC got a slow start when Japan failed to support it. Nevertheless, Mahathir, the only APEC leader to boycott the Seattle summit, still promotes the idea of an “Asians only” grouping.
- NICS: Refers to the Newly Industrialized Countries of East Asia. The moniker fits nearly every Asian Rim economy except The Philippines. Mexico is the newest Pacific Rim NIC.
- NIES: Newly Industrialized Economies is the politically correct way to refer to NICs. Reason: China insists that Taiwan and Hong Kong are economies, not countries.
- PECC: The Pacific Economic Cooperation Council, established in 1980 and headquartered in Singapore, is a “tripartite” organization of leaders of government, business and academia from 20 Pacific Rim nations.PECC includes all 17 APEC nations plus Russia, Chile, and Peru. PECC is closely allied with APEC, uses the same committee structure and supports the APEC agenda with staff studies and overlapping membership on PECC working groups. The US is an active participant in PECC.
This growing institutional capacity reflects expanding visions of the Pacific Century — the idea that the global center of gravity is moving to the Pacific Rim and that 21st century politics, economic growth and international commerce will be driven by East Asia, North America and other Pacific Rim nations.