This chapter provides an overview of the free trade areas (FTA) developments in East Asia in order to set the stage for the detailed analyses. It examines the patterns of FTA developments in East Asia and then identifies the factors that led to the active formation of FTAs. The chapter focuses on the economic factors and analyses the implications for region-wide FTAs. Towards the end of the 1990s, several countries in East Asia began to consider the establishment of bilateral FTAs. The early 2000s saw the enactment of a series of bilateral FTAs involving East Asian countries, beginning with the Japan-Singapore FTA in 2002. The concept of an FTA encompassing all countries in East Asia emerged in the late 1990s. Faced with a discriminatory situation resulting from the rapid expansion of FTAs, Japan and Korea changed their attitude towards FTAs from negative to positive, in order to defend their overseas markets.