The East Asia Economic Caucus (previously known as the East Asia Economic Group) was proposed by Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohammad around 1990 as a consultative forum comprising of Japan, China, South Korea and the countries of ASEAN. Whilst many claim the organisation was never intended to be a trade block, it was developed to counter the threat from the growing emergence of NAFTA and the European Union, using human rights as a guise for protectionism or political interference.

Japan however vetoed against EAEC. Preferring not to risk its substantial trading interests with the United States and the forced opening of its own protected markets, it preferred the less prescriptive nature of APEC. EAEC's exclusionary nature was enough for it to be coined "Except Africans Except Caucasians" by its critics.

In 1995 ASEAN leaders endorsed including the three North Asian countries as signatories for a number of multilateral agreements encompassing economic, commercial, cultural, educational and environmental cooperation. Malaysia is now hoping to recreate EAEC through the architecture of ASEAN (to be ASEAN+3), but reservations have been expressed by Singapore and Indonesia.

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