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Sub-Regionalization in Contemporary International Trade Relations: Cases of Indonesia-Malaysia-Singapore Growth Zones/IMS Growth Triangle

Research Report

Riza Noer Arfani

Department of International Relations
Faculty of Social and Political Sciences
Universitas Gadjah Mada

Background
The IMS-GT (Indonesia-Malaysia-Singapore Growth Triangle) –often termed as “Sijori” or Singapore-Johor-Riau scheme— has typically viewed as a model of regional economic growth zones during the last 30 years of Southeast Asian international development and industrialization. Along with IMT-GT (Indonesia-Malaysia-Thailand Growth Triangle), IMS-GT is a landmark in the ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) regional cooperation scheme confirming its major move towards AFTA (ASEAN Free Trade Agreement) scheme signed at the Singapore summit in January 1992. In its broader context of East Asian regionalism, IMS-GT and IMT-GT are complementary to Mekong Delta (involving borders of Cambodia-Laos-Malaysia-Thailand and Vietnam), East ASEAN Growth Area (Indonesia-Malaysia-the Philippines), Southern China, the Yellow Sea, Sea of Japan and Tumen Delta (China-Japan-Korea). IMS-GT is also considered as the pioneer of such growth triangle zones following the success of industrialization of Singapore since 1965. Singapore has been then considered as the locomotive of growth to its neighboring countries of Indonesia (especially in the case of Batam, Riau) and Malaysia (Johor) providing capital, technology and growing international production and market in the area. IMS-GT therefore offers practical and actual scheme of regional economic cooperation based on the functionality of industrialization, particularly in the form of international manufacturing production in the three bordering regions of Sijori. Batam/Riau of Indonesia and Johor of Malaysia have been industrialized and zoned as to serve the spilled Singaporean manufacturing industry. Conceptual as well as empirical endeavors to explore dynamic relations among stakeholders (i.e. government or state apparatus, societal groups and private actors) in the formation of the growth zone of IMS-GT are of my interest to seek here. Comparative political economic study on how the actors intermingle in the face of trans-border and regional economic cooperation scheme suggests clarification of whether regional economic growth zoning scheme in that of IMS-GT is domestically, or internationally or regionally-driven. The question is worth noted in understanding the nature and advancement of Southeast Asian regional or international capitalistic development as it integrates more and more deeply, intensively and faster to its wider regional and global trade and economic regimes. The question will eventually lead to comprehension on the political economic consequences of such a process. That it would bring about pressures among domestic players on how decisions should be made, on whose benefits and costs, and finally how political mechanism eventually negotiate the process of zoning the region.

Intermittent Approaches to (Sub-) Regional Economic Growth
Regional economic growth triangle scheme of IMS-GT is principally a by-product of a larger economic regionalization processes in Southeast and East Asia. In order to comprehend such processes, the following theoretical survey of regional integration processes is presented here. Early theorization and conceptualization of regional integration processes (that is empirically referred to European experience) dated back to the works of Ernst B. Haas and Bela Balassa. Haas portrayed the early unification processes of western European countries and their efforts prior to the establishment of ECSC (European Coal and Steel Community). He maintained that regional integration in the case of ECSC onward is a process, not a status, nor a normative belief. The process he believed as rested on perceptions of the interests of groups, individuals, governments...
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