Number of Asian Free Trade Agreements in 2001: 7
Number of Asian Free Trade Agreements in 2008: 100+
Asia is increasingly integrating itself, much like North America and Europe already have. The problem is that Asian integration is a lot more haphazard and a lot less comprehensive: these agreements only apply to specific sectors. It's hardly the type of wide-scale trade freedom that exists in American trade deals (or at least that's what the people on C-SPAN tell me! God I love it when the House takes off...they never do anything important anyways). Hence, I suppose, the need for so many deals.
However, without widescale integration, I would imagine it would be tough to get true consensus on a lot of critical economic issues. For instance, if we can't even agree on whether or not Japanese beef should be allowed in Vietnam, how in the world can they agree on management of capital flows? And then what's to prevent another financial crisis from starting?
Haphazard integration like this needs to stop. The world needs wide-scale integration in order to deal with serious trasnational issues, like pollution, refugees, and arms control.
Unfortunately, there is massive resistance to this within the United States even today. Instead of creating large institutions designed to help countries work together better, the Bush Administration has pursued foreign policy unilaterally, and our trade policy largely consists of creating bilateral trade agreements and jawboning China about currency appreciation.
Haphazard policy: not just for nations with a history of protectionism