Trade Crucial for Inclusive, Sustainable Growth in Asia-Pacific - ADB

MANILA, PHILIPPINES – Trade has been a key tool for driving growth and poverty reduction in Asia and should be expanded and improved so the benefits are shared by all economies in the region, Asian Development Bank (ADB) President Haruhiko Kuroda said today.

"We must close the gap between Asia's surging economies and those mired in poverty by isolation, limited resources, miniscule trade and inadequate finance," Mr. Kuroda said at the 2011 Third Global Review Meeting of Aid for Trade in Geneva, Switzerland. "Better strategies are called for along with more aid for trade."

The World Trade Organization's (WTO) Aid for Trade Initiative, launched in 2005, helps developing countries build the infrastructure and trade-related skills needed to benefit from existing WTO agreements. ADB has been a key participant since 2006, co-hosting three regional review meetings, as well as acting as secretariat for the Regional Technical Group on Aid for Trade for the Asia-Pacific.

Asia has bounced back impressively from the global economic crisis but it is still home to the majority of the world's extreme poor. Policymakers are now moving to rebalance sources of growth by putting more emphasis on domestic and regional demand, while trade within Asia has stepped up as countries benefit from liberalization and improved supply chains and production networks.

"The challenge is to make Asia's development more equitable and inclusive," Mr. Kuroda said.

ADB's experience suggests there are large returns where there is political commitment and effective donor coordination. This approach has been used successfully in the Greater Mekong Subregion program and is providing a model for the ramping up of ADB's trade and connectivity projects in Central Asia and South Asia, among others.

Mr. Kuroda said ADB is also keen to pass on its aid for trade experiences to other regions, and last June reached an agreement to share trade finance documentation and know-how with the African Development Bank.

"ADB's 45 years of development experience have revealed what works and where we should be heading," he said.

WTO Director-General Pascal Lamy, along with the heads of the World Bank, the Inter-American Development Bank and the African Development Bank also attended the event.