Asian economies face important policy challenges regarding the use of free trade agreements (FTAs): primarily their scope and their impact on regionalization trends. These topics are the front line of contemporary negotiations and of interest to policymakers. This column examines these challenges based on new data on the business impacts of FTAs and contents of existing FTAs. It also discusses political economy considerations of FTA consolidation in Asia and its potential connection with North America and Europe. Asia’s rise as the “global factory” over the past several decades was underpinned by outward-oriented development strategies and multilateralism. FTAs, as trade-policy instruments in the region, were largely absent until the 1990s. [Read more]
About Masahiro KawaiMasahiro Kawai is Dean and CEO of the Asian Development Bank Institute (ADBI) and previously served as special advisor to the ADB president on regional economic integration and cooperation. Before joining ADB, he was a professor of economics at the University of Tokyo. Dr. Kawai has published a number of books and numerous academic articles on regional economic integration and cooperation in Asia, including lessons from the Asian financial crisis and Asian free trade agreements, and on the international currency system.
The Great East Japan Earthquake on 11 March 2011 was the biggest earthquake recorded in Japanese seismic history, and the fourth largest recorded in the world. The scope of the triple disaster consisting of an earthquake, a tsunami, and a nuclear accident, far exceeded that of the Hanshin Earthquake of 1995. The repercussions of this disaster spread far beyond the geographical areas directly affected. For example, electric power supply capacity in the Kanto area, which accounts for about 40% of Japanese gross domestic product (GDP), fell at one stage by about 40% from the normal peak—a severe constraint on economic activity, and the supply of nuclear-generated electric power has largely been cut off since then. [Read more]
East Asia’s attitude toward free trade agreements (FTAs) has changed. Slow progress in global trade talks has led to a surge in FTAs across Asia. With the World Trade Organization (WTO) Doha Round trade talks stalled, Asian countries see FTAs as a way of liberalizing trade and investment and sustaining economic recovery. The number of signed and implemented FTAs in the region has increased from three in 2000 to more than 60 in 2012, sparking concerns about an Asian “noodle bowl” of agreements. Critics worry about overlapping rules of origin (ROOs) requirements, which may be costly to business, especially small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), and argue that this wave of agreements will undermine the multilateral liberalisation process. [Read more]
The formation of a Free Trade Area of the Asia–Pacific (FTAAP) has been intensively discussed in recent years. However, it is anticipated that such an Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC)-wide FTA would take many years to negotiate and involve numerous studies among all the APEC members, currently 21 in number. The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) could be a viable alternative. It is intended to be a “high-quality, comprehensive 21st century FTA” that will promote economic integration in the Asia-Pacific region. In addition to deep commitments to tariff reductions, it aims to cover services trade, investment, intellectual property, government procurement, competition policy, labor, the environment, and many other issues affecting trade and investment. [Read more]
I am delighted to welcome readers to Asia Pathways, the new blog of the Asian Development Bank Institute (ADBI). Our goal in launching this blog is to present readable and lively analyses of important economic and development issues in the Asia and Pacific region. We hope to encourage debate among policymakers, researchers, practitioners, journalists and other sections of the public who may wish to follow and engage in public policy discourse. ADBI already produces a wide range of analytical material on Asia and the Pacific, ranging from working papers and policy briefs to scholarly books. I encourage readers to visit our website for full details of these. [Read more]
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