The interest in East Asian regionalism is growing among the regional elites and researchers but this is not a new idea as it arose from the 1997 financial crisis. In fact, the idea of East Asia regional grouping has been promoted by Malaysia Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad in December 1990. The initial idea was to overcome the pressure from protectionism threats from the European Union and NAFTA. Nonetheless, Mahathir's brainchild of the East Asia Economic Caucus (EAEC) did not receive a pleasant response and it was being treated as an 'insane proposal'. The proposal received a negative feedback and remained suspect by the respondents. Mahathir restated that US could not be part of the EAEC as it cannot be a member of the European Community. His insistence on exclusive membership had given his fellow neighbours a hard time compromising on the issue.
Even though his idea was considered to have failed to persuade regional parties, it was a learning event before the creation of the Asean+3 Summit. The occurrence of the financial crisis showed the weakness of the regional communication and financial system in East Asia. As a result, elites agreed on the formation of the Asean+3 Summit. Since then it has become a regular consultation summit and has improved the regional cooperation issue.