PACIFIC RIM, a region comprising the countries and regions bordering the Pacifc Ocean, particularly (but not exclusively) the small nations of eastern Asia. Geologically, the region, dominated by the vast expanse of ocean between America to the east and Asia to the west, contains four-fifths of the world's seismic activity. It is its economic activity, however, that has given the geological term currency in international business and in world politics, especially with regard to Asia. Asian economies went from producing just 4 percent of the world's overall economic output in the 1960s to 25 percent in the 1990s. By the early 1990s U.S. exports to Asia exceeded those to Europe; transpacific trade had at last become more important than the transatlantic. The region's economic growth was led not only by Japan but also by the "little dragons" of Singapore, Hong Kong, South Korea, and Taiwan, as well the "tigers" of Southeast Asia, particularly Indonesia, Malaysia, and Thailand.
Adding to the importance of this region was the increasing involvement of the People's Republic of China in international trade as it reluctantly began to open its market of 1.2 billion consumers to outside trade and capitalist incentives after the conclusion of the Cold War in 1991. To mark this shift, in 1989 China joined eleven other Pacific Rim nations in forming the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC). In 1994 APEC signed an accord to achieve "free and open trade and investment" in the region among its industrialized members while giving its developing nations until the year 2020 to comply. The hope was that the agreement would transform the region into the world's largest free-trade area, though there was much doubt about this after the global economic slowdown of the late 1990s. Since its inception in 1989, APEC has grown from an informal dialogue of a dozen Pacific Rim economies to a major regional institution with twenty-one members. The United States works closely with APEC and sees it as an important part of the nation's engagement in the Asia-Pacific region. It has become America's primary vehicle for advancing both economic cooperation and investment liberalization in the region.
In the opening years of the twenty-first century, APEC member economies were: Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, China, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Japan, Republic of Korea, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, Peru, Philippines, Russia, Singapore, Chinese Taipei, Thailand, United States, and Vietnam.
Besher, Alexander, ed. The Pacific Rim Almanac. New York: Harper Perennial, 1991.
West, Philip, et al., eds. The Pacific Rim and the Western World. Boulder, Colo.: Westview Press, 1987.
See alsoAustralia and New Zealand, Relations with ; Canada, Relations with ; Chile, Relations with ; China, Relations with ; Japan, Relations with ; Korea, Relations with ; Mexico, Relations with ; Philippines ; Russia, Relations with ; Vietnam, Relations with .