Expanding the Asean-China Free Trade Agreement to Include Cooperative Exploration of the South China Sea
NAVAL WAR COLLEGE NEWPORT RI NEWPORT United States
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The tensions in the South China Sea SCS present an opportunity for the Association of Southeast Asian Nations ASEAN and China to cooperate on furthering economic interdependence, thereby promoting stability in the region. Recent successes in trade and investment as a result of the ASEAN-China Free Trade Agreement ACFTA demonstrate the Peoples Republic of Chinas PRC willingness to expand economic relations with ASEAN countries. Furthermore, both ASEAN and Chinas dependence on foreign energy coupled with the vast hydrocarbon reserves in the SCS are an impetus for cooperative exploration. Finally, the rapid depletion of fish stocks within the SCS over the last 20 years demands collaboration between the PRC and ASEAN. In order to realize equitable economic sharing of resources throughout the SCS, ASEAN must expand the ACFTA to include hydrocarbon and fishery cooperation, thus recognizing that the motivations for the PRCs actions in the SCS are out of economic survival and not a quest for regional hegemony.
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