Un nuevo eje asiático

SEÚL – El mes pasado, los líderes de China, Japón y Corea del Sur acordaron iniciar en lo que queda del año negociaciones para la firma de un tratado de libre comercio trilateral. Si las tratativas concluyen con éxito, habrá que volver a trazar el mapa global del comercio. Un TLC que incluya a las economías que ocupan, respectivamente, el segundo, el tercer y el duodécimo lugar entre las más grandes del mundo (según cifras de paridad del poder adquisitivo a 2011) y que cuentan con una población de 1.500 millones de personas haría sombra a la Unión Europea y al Tratado de Libre Comercio de América del Norte (NAFTA), que incluye a Estados Unidos, Canadá y México.

En los hechos, el noreste asiático se convertiría en el tercer mayor eje de integración regional económica, después de la UE y el NAFTA. Hasta ahora, la región no ha podido llevar la institucionalización de la cooperación económica tan lejos como Europa y América del Norte, pero si las propuestas discutidas en Beijing el mes pasado se llevaran a la práctica, el TLC resultante podría superar al NAFTA en cuanto a grado de integración e importancia para la economía mundial.

Además, es casi seguro que la formación de un TLC entre China, Japón y Corea del Sur iniciaría una reacción en cadena. El impulso de integración podría extenderse, por ejemplo, hacia el sur, donde propiciaría la adhesión de los países de la ASEAN (que tiene tratados de libre comercio bilaterales con cada uno de los tres países). Semejante giro de los acontecimientos equivaldría al establecimiento de un Área de Libre Comercio del Este de Asia, algo que el grupo ASEAN+3 ya viene concibiendo desde hace más o menos una década. Si esto llegara a ocurrir, podría haber otros países interesados en subirse al tren (por ejemplo, Australia, Nueva Zelanda y, sobre todo, la India).

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