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.
New challenges for ASEAN–Japan relations: Celebrating the 40th year of ASEAN–Japan friendship and cooperation
By Masahiro Kawai. Posted December 13, 2013
The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and the Government of Japan are celebrating their 40th year of friendship and cooperation in 2013. A Commemorative Summit will be held in Tokyo starting on 13 December, at which leaders are expected to adopt a medium- to long-term vision to chart the future direction of ASEAN–Japan relations.ASEAN and Japan’s cooperative partnership began in 1973 with the establishment of the ASEAN–Japan forum on synthetic rubber production issues. From this initial success, ASEAN and Japan have forged close cooperation through the years in the pursuit of peace, stability, development, and prosperity in Asia. Japan’s Prime Minister, Shinzo Abe, has visited all 10 ASEAN member states this year, starting soon after his assumption of office in late December 2012.
Recent research has found that economic recoveries from banking crises tend to be weaker and more prolonged than those from traditional types of deep recessions (see for example IMF 2009). Japan’s “two lost decades” perhaps represent an extreme example of this, and the experience has now passed into the lexicon as “Japanese-style stagnation” or “Japanization” for short. A long period of economic stagnation during peace time is not new, particularly among developing countries; the “lost decade” of Latin America in the 1980s is just one example. But Japanization was a surprising phenomenon observed in a mature market economy where the authorities were supposed to have sufficient policy tools to tackle banking crises and manage the economy.
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.
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. Production supply chains were significantly disrupted, not only in Japan, but all over Asia, although they recovered surprisingly rapidly.
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. A search for pragmatic and innovative ways to untangle the noodle bowl of Asia’s free trade agreements is needed.
By Masahiro Kawai. Posted April 2, 2012
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.
By Masahiro Kawai. Posted January 6, 2012
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.
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