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By Sanchita Basu Das. Posted July 3, 2013
According to a report by the Asian Development Bank (2008), “Asia’s economies are increasingly vital to each other and to the world. Asia’s output today roughly equals that of Europe or North America, and may well be 50% larger than theirs by 2020, in terms of purchasing power parity.” Moreover, with both the US and Europe continuing to post low GDP growth of 1% to 2.5% annually, the center of the recovery has shifted to Asia. These factors became apparent during the November 2012 ASEAN summit, when Asia saw two different approaches to trade liberalization. One is the ASEAN-led Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) and the other is the US-led Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP).
By Jean Heilman Grier. Posted May 31, 2013
The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) is akin to other free trade agreements (FTAs) that the United States (US) has negotiated over the past two decades that are aimed at opening markets and providing new opportunities for US goods, services, and firms. The TPP is the first FTA to be negotiated by the Obama Administration. The three FTAs (with Colombia, the Republic of Korea, and Panama) that the Obama Administration implemented in 2012 were negotiated and signed by the prior administration. The TPP will be the most significant FTA that the US has negotiated since the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) with Canada and Mexico, which entered into force in 1994.
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.
By Yuqing Xing. Posted March 12, 2013
Since the People’s Republic of China (PRC) surpassed Japan as the world’s second largest economy in 2010, guessing when the PRC would eclipse the United States (US) as the world’s largest economy has been an exciting game among PRC watchers. On 10 February came the surprising news that the PRC had surpassed the US to become the world’s No. 1 trading nation, after both countries officially announced their 2012 trade figures. According to the US Department of Commerce, total US trade in 2012 amounted to $3.82 trillion, about $50 billion short of the PRC’s exports and imports of $3.87 trillion, estimated by China Customs.
By Ganeshan Wignaraja. Posted March 7, 2013
Slowing growth and rising unemployment sometimes induce economies to become more inward-oriented with restrictive policies. Indonesia shows early signs of such tendencies and its future growth may be at risk. The experience of high performing East Asian economies, however, suggests that outward-oriented policies and infrastructure investment support sustainable growth. Indonesia’s growth slowed to 6.2% in 2012 from 6.5% in 2011. Its growth in the previous decade was below 6%. A slight dip notwithstanding, a turnaround seems to be continuing in this resource-rich economy once seen by the West as a basket case of crony capitalism during the 1997–1998 Asian financial crisis.
By Ganeshan Wignaraja. Posted October 24, 2012
Deep free trade agreements (FTAs) are key to trade-led growth in Asia. Deep FTAs can support a comprehensive regional agenda for liberalization covering reductions in barriers to goods and services trade as well as opening new areas beyond the current purview of WTO negotiations (like investment, trade facilitation, competition, government procurement and intellectual property). Deep agreements can also help lock in structural reforms at national-level and promote implementation of second generation reforms. Accordingly, deep FTAs are useful for opening markets and removing obstacles to the spread of production networks throughout Asia and the Pacific. The depth of FTAs among Asia’s developing giants—the People’s Republic of China (PRC) and India—is a topical issue.
By Alejandro Jara. Posted August 22, 2012
The Doha Round of the World Trade Organization (WTO) negotiations has been stalled since July 2008. To try to end this impasse, the leaders of the G-20 pledged at their summit in Seoul in November 2010 that negotiations should be concluded by the end of 2011. Since a consensus among the G-5—the European Union, Brazil, the People’s Republic of China (PRC), India, and the United States—would be required for this to happen, the negotiations fell mainly into the hands of these members. However, much to the disappointment of the rest of the World Trade Organization (WTO) membership, in April 2011 the G-5 announced that their differences were too wide and that they would stop looking for a breakthrough. As a result, the target of concluding the Doha Round by the end of the year was not met.
The decades leading to the current global economic turmoil saw many developing countries attempt to pursue the East Asian development model, which is widely perceived to have been export-led. Is such growth possible in the post-crisis world with shrinking global imbalances? Historical data may provide useful clues. Our paper, titled "Can Asia Sustain an Export-Led Growth Strategy in the Aftermath of the Global Crisis? An Empirical Exploration", finds that Asian growth in the pre-crisis period was significantly correlated with the proportion of their manufactured exports that were sold in industrialized country markets. Given this evidence, Asian exports to other developing countries may not be good substitutes for their exports to developed countries. The policy implication is clear: a deceleration of exports to industrialized countries may limit prospects for post-crisis growth even if exports to other developing countries pick up the slack. Asian policy makers should, therefore, be more willing than ever to experiment with new paths to technological catch up.
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.
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