gRegionalismh is gaining popularity as a form of governance in major geographical regions of the present world. European countries have developed the European Union (EU) over 50 years. North and South American countries are preparing for the establishment of the Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA). Successful conclusion of the agreement would merge NAFTA and Mercosur regimes into one larger arrangement. In East Asia, particularly ASEAN countries, China, Korea and Japan have been negotiating bilateral and/or regionally multilateral free trade agreements (FTAs) and economic partnership agreements (EPAs) since the late 1990s.
The growth of regionalism poses different sets of basic questions in social sciences. What do these attempts to regionalism have in common, and what are the differences among them? Why have these regional arrangements emerged? Who is promoting the idea of regionalism? Will these regional arrangements result in three regional gblocsh, which might undermine the WTO and other current international regimes for global governance? What is the impact of each regional arrangement upon the nation-states in the region? Do these regional arrangements reinforce and/or produce closer political solidarity among the peoples of the region?
Our project is
(a) to identify similarity and difference among those three major regional arrangements in legal, economic and political terms, and
(b) to clarify their impact upon local, national, regional and global governance.
(c) In relation to East Asia, we would also like to discuss possible courses of action in the near future, by building some models of regional arrangements fit to the regional need.
Our project has three distinctive features and merits.
Firstly, we take up gcomparativeh analyses of gthreeh major attempts to regionalism. There are few studies so far that compare all those three; many studies remain comparing two of the three, particularly between Europe and America, or between Europe and Asia. This is mainly because East Asian regional arrangement is still in the making. Our project is the first international joint research project on East Asian as well as American and European regionalism.
Secondly, in terms of methodology, we carry out gtrans-disciplinaryh research in the gtrinityh of economics, politics and law. We aim at being synthetic as well as analytical. Thus we set out an analytical framework commonly applicable to those three regionalisms. The framework will be consisted of the same set of questions in economics, political science and law, so that our comparison can identify both common and distinctive features among those three regionalisms. In this regard, most prior researches on regionalism apply one or two disciplines of social science such as economics and political science. It is our firm belief that we need both discipline specific analyses and discipline transcendental synthesis in identifying the features of and in assessing the impact of regionalism on each and every level of governance from local to global.
Thirdly, we study not only gvertical interactionsh among local, national, regional and global level of actors emerging in those three regions, but also their ghorizontal interactionsh between those regions. This is because we take particular caution in conceptualising gtheh East Asian regionalism. Although many bilateral agreements are concluded and being negotiated between East Asian countries, it is uncertain whether those agreements would consolidate into a single regional regime such as EU and FTAA.