Increased Openness and Integration Promotes Asian Dynamism, Says ADB President

ISTANBUL, TURKEY (3 May 2005) - Greater regional cooperation and integration within Asia holds the promise of sustainable growth and reduced poverty in the region, ADB President Haruhiko Kuroda told the opening of a seminar today.

"One of the lessons of history is that economies that are more market-oriented and integrated with the outside world are more likely to achieve sustained high rates of growth and poverty reduction," Mr. Kuroda said.

"Increased openness and integration are important contributors to the East Asian economic miracle, and to the dynamism of PRC [the People's Republic of China] and, more recently, India."

He was speaking at the Governors' Seminar on a Roadmap for Asia's Economic Cooperation and Integration, held on the eve of the opening of ADB's 38th Annual Meeting of the Board of Governors in Istanbul.

Mr. Kuroda said the global trend toward regional cooperation, and a desire to enhance productivity and international competitiveness, have prompted Asian countries to forge closer ties through schemes such as free trade agreements.

"Asia's efforts at greater cooperation and integration can be seen as 'open regionalism' and a stepping stone to its integration with the rest of the world," he said.

He cited as examples in the trend towards regionalism the ASEAN Free Trade Area, which is well into its implementation phase, and a number of free trade agreements signed or under negotiation between members of ASEAN+3.

"As these agreements expand, the proposed free trade area for the whole of East Asia may come closer to reality," he said.

He also pointed out that the geographic scope of cooperative agreements has expanded across the different subregions of Asia, so that there are now initial signs of cooperation and integration in Asia as a whole.

He cited as examples the India-ASEAN Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement, the recent strategic partnership agreement between the PRC and India, the Pakistan-PRC protocol agreement on trade, and the Bangladesh India Myanmar Sri Lanka Thailand Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC).

"Closer economic interdependence among East Asian countries, through intra-regional trade and investment and public-private partnerships, is likely to sustain the momentum in monetary and financial cooperation," he added.

Mr. Kuroda said ADB has been actively supporting a number of regional cooperation initiatives, including programs to develop cross-border infrastructure and associated software to increase connectivity among countries. ADB has also provided various types of support to monetary and financial cooperation agreements such as the ASEAN+3 Finance Ministers process.

ADB's new Office of Regional Economic Integration will help promote a more strategic approach to economic cooperation and integration, the ADB President said.

"ADB, as a regional development bank, has a unique mission to assume a more proactive role as a catalyst, as well as coordinator and knowledge leader, for promoting regional cooperation and integration in the region," he said.

"ADB will continue to work with our member countries toward fulfilling this vision."