empire has evolved into the Commonwealth and The Francophonie, tariffs have been reduced, for many countries and for many goods, to insignificance, capital flows almost without hindrance, and inter-continental conflict over territory has been replaced by differing positions on the proper regulation of cultural industries, trade in genetically altered food crops, and the acceptable level of IMF assistance to distressed economies. Popular writers now celebrate a "world without borders" and the "decline of the nation state."
Quite apart from media hype, there has been a dramatic evolution during the 20th century in the reality that confronts national governments and in the context in which they structure their relationships with each other. The combination of unprecedented trade liberalization and rapid advances in the technologies of production, distribution and communication have forced a reconceptualization of the architecture of international relations, most powerfully of all of those of the nations which border the Atlantic Ocean. Furthermore, the decline of the international power of the ex-Soviet Union, the end of the Cold War, and the opening of the countries of Eastern Europe have combined to move defense and security relations from the center to the periphery of the Atlantic world. While not quite portending the "end of history," this change in security relationships has allowed economic considerations to become the primary concern. Economics has become the primary reason for self-interested national entities to seek closer relations with each other and to seek to create conceptual and institutional structures that will minimize conflict and maximize mutually beneficial interaction and cooperation.
Ever since the mercantilists and the Treaty of Westphalia in the 17th century, the nation has been at the center of governance and the focal point of inter-societal relations. The powerful changes that have taken place during the present century have posed two distinct challenges to the nation as political actor. First, in the decreasingly bordered environment the nation has been challenged by sub-national governments and by the supra-national creations of nations as centers of decision making. Some responsibilities have devolved to cities, states and provinces in response partly to the ambitions of local leaders and partly to the ideology of leaders at the national level. Second, all levels of government have, with varying degrees of aggressiveness and success, established linkages with other counterpart entities based on mutual economic gain rather than on strategic considerations. This has resulted in an architecture of post-modern relationships that is quite different from those that were forged during the years of empire, informal colony and Cold War.
In this paper the focus will not be on the extensive array of formal inter-national organizations, such as the United Nations, the World Trade Organization, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, which have been designed to meet global concerns of nation states. Nor will attention be given to the vast number of narrowly focused private sector initiatives that form a separate tissue of inter-national relations. What is equally fascinating are geographically based conceptualizations of common space - fascinating because of their newness and because of the uncertainty that characterizes both their present and their future utility. Foremost among these mental constructs is the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation area (APEC) which encompasses all of the nations that border on the Pacific Ocean. The genesis and actual benefit of APEC will be examined later in this paper. But APEC was the first, and remains the