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Pada tahun 1990, Perdana Menteri Malaysia ketika itu, Dato' Sri Dr Mahathir Mohamed telah mencadangkan penubuhan Perkumpulan Ekonomi Asia Timur atau East Asian Economic Group ringkasnya EAEG yang merangkumi ASEAN, Negara China, Korea Selatan dan Jepun. Malangnya cadangan tersebut telah gagal disebabkan oleh faktor-faktor yang tertentu. Bagaimanapun keinginan Malaysia untuk mewujudkan EAEG dengan keanggotaan Negara yang sama telah dipertimbangkan semula dengan serius pada tahun 1999. Dalam tahun tersebut ASEAN, China, Jepun dan Korea Selatan telah bersetuju untuk menubuhkan suatu gagasan yang dikenali sebagai ASEAN + 3 (AP3). Terdapat beberapa sebab munculnya minat untuk menubuhkan AP3, pertama, untuk meningkatkan kerjasama demi mewujudkan kestabilan ekonomi di rantau Asia Tenggara dan Asia Timur. Kerjasama tersebut amat perlu kerana dijangkakan pada waktu itu kesan krisis matawang dan kewangan mungkin berpanjangan dan jugs dijangkakan ekonomi dunia akan mengalami kemerosotan dalam tahun 2000. Keduanya AP3 penting terutamanya kepada ASEAN dari segi menghadapi kemungkinan kesan ekonomi negatif dari perkembangan ekonomi negara China. Perkembangan pesat ekonomi China telah mengujudkan pengherotan perdagangan dan penyimpangan pelaburan asing di rantau Asia Tenggara sejak tahun 1997. Hal tersebut dan kembalinya China dalam Pertubuhan Perdagangan Dunia (WTO)2 telah mengusarkan pemimpin-pemimpin negara-negara ASEAN. Untuk mengurangkan kemungkinan menghadapi kesan negatif dari perkembangan ekonomi China, ASEAN berhubung dan berunding dengan kerajaan China untuk mengujudkan kerjasama ekonomi. Hasil dari rundingan tersebut perjanjian untuk penubuhan Kawasan Perdagangan Bebas ASEAN-China telah dimeterai pada 4 November 2002 di Phnom Penh. Pada 29 November 2004 perjanjian mengenai pengliberalan perdagangan (iaitu fasa pertama kerjasama ASEAN-China) telah dimeteraikan di antara ASEAN dan China. Sebenarnya, sebarang rancangan penubuhan kerjasama ekonomi di rantau Asia Timur semestinya akan memberi implikasi terhadap ekonomi negara-negara yang menyertainya dan Malaysia tidak terkecuali dalam hal ini.
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