Asian Economic Integration Monitor - March 2013

Publication | March 2013

Regional integration progressed as the 2008/09 global financial and eurozone debt crises brought greater cooperation to Asia. Yet, deepening collaboration and coordination will likely be more challenging.

The Asian Economic Integration Monitor is a semiannual review of Asia's regional economic cooperation and integration. It covers ADB's 48 regional members. The March 2013 issue includes a special chapter - Multilateralizing Asian Regionalism: Approaches to Unraveling the Asian Noodle Bowl.

Report's Findings

  • Regional integration progressed as the 2008/09 global financial and eurozone debt crises brought greater cooperation to Asia. Yet, deepening cooperation will likely be more challenging.
  • As advanced economies are readjusting, Asia continues to deepen initiatives and explore new ways to enhance regional cooperation, collaboration and coordination.
  • Despite a shift in direction of Asia's exports, the share of intra-regional exports has remained unchanged at around 56% in 2011.
  • Trade in services is increasingly important to Asia, though its growth remains below trade in goods. Asia should prioritize service exports as a new growth channel - particularly modern services.
  • Intraregional remittances within Asia are rising rapidly, indicating growing intraregional labor mobility. As intra-Asian migration grows, better management to avoid conflict is an essential challenge to future cooperation. While regional connectivity is improving, demand continues to rise faster than supply, widening the infrastructure gap.
  • As tariffs decline globally, transport and trade transaction costs, along with other non-tariff barriers, are becoming more important. Cross-border procedures need to be simplified, harmonized, and use international best practices.
  • Increasing interdependence underlines the importance of regional public goods in addressing both global and regional issues - such as climate change and the environment, epidemics, disaster preparedness, good governance, and cross-border crime.
  • Financing and the delivery of regional public goods remain challenges to regional cooperation, as do institutional design and the standards used to deliver regional public goods.

Special Chapter: Multilateralizing Asian Regionalism - Approaches to Unraveling the Asian Noodle Bowl

The proliferation of free trade agreements (FTAs) has been greatest in Asia; the global multilateral impasse has helped create an Asian noodle bowl, with more than 100 ratified FTAs involving at least one Asian economy.

Two key proposals have been advanced to disentangle the Asian noodle bowl: consolidation - which creates a regional FTA to harmonize bilateral FTAs; and multilateralization - which grants non-discriminatory preferences to nonmembers, eliminating preference discrepancies.

The ASEAN-led Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership could pave the way for consolidating ASEAN FTAs under a single regional agreement, although it is still too early to tell.

Contents 

  • Highlights
  • Regional Economic Update
  • Progress in Regional Cooperation and Integration
  • Multilateralizing Asian Regionalism: Approaches to Unraveling the Asian Noodle Bowl
  • References