Regional organizations and institutions are significant aspects of governance and multilateralism in global relations. Certainly, in the recent past much attentioin has been focused on the growth and consequences of regional trade organizations - NAFTA, the EU and the spaghetti bowl of other small and large regional trade agreements and organizations. But there has been, and continues to be, regional political and security organizations as well. The granddaddy of the them all is the North American Treaty Organization (NATO) - that bridges the North American-Europe divide. But there are a host of more than bilateral agreements that dot the regional landscape and create regional organizations and institutions. Even in the BRICSAM we have one notable regional governance organization - ASEAN.
We’ll return to ASEAN, but regionalism warrants a bit more comment. Peter Katzenstein an eminient political scientist from Cornell University, not long ago in his book, A World of Regions, (full cite below) argued persuasively that contemporary global politics is built on a global, “structure of regions, embedded deeply in an American imperium.” While we might inquire further into the meaning of ‘imperium,’ there is little question of the importance of regions and in fact of the influence of the United States regionally and globally. He argues (and I’ll use his familiar name, Peter as he taught me comparative politcs and had the pain of shepherding me in part through his work on my PhD committee - and is today a firend) that regionalism is evolving and growing: “A regionalism made porpous by globalization and internationalization remains available for processes that create ever larger regions, illustrated since the mid-1990s by the enlargements of NATO, the EU and ASEAN. Regional enlargements go hand in hand with new forms of interregional engagement.” Europe and Asia, according to Peter, have different institutional structures but critically in each region there have been supporters of the US that have collaborated in the building of American power and purpose in the regional setting. In the Asian setting the notable supporter is Japan and in the European setting germany. And while the regional dynamic is changing - in Asia China has become an increasingly active regional actor nevertheless in examining regional governance in almost any regional setting, regional organizations and institutions include or are sgnificantly influenced by a US presence. Thus regional governanace invariably is tinged by global interests of the US. It makes regional governance far more complicated frought with contending pressures but capable of creating more dynamic regional ‘clubs.’
Peter Katzenstein, A World of Regions: Asia and Europe in the American Imperium, (Ithaca, NY and London, UK: Cornell University Press, 2005)