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Policy on Regional Cooperation and Integration

Regional cooperation and integration (RCI) is a process by which national economies become more interconnected regionally.

RCI plays a critical role in accelerating economic growth, reducing poverty and economic disparity, raising productivity and employment, and strengthening institutions. It narrows development gaps between ADB’s developing member countries (DMCs) by building closer trade integration, intraregional supply chains, and stronger financial links, enabling slow-moving economies to speed their own expansion. It is an important platform on which countries work together toward unlocking their vast economic potential, achieving sustained, rapid growth, and reducing poverty.

Regional Cooperation Policy and RCI Strategy

ADB adopted a regional cooperation policy (RCP) in 1994 that, for the first time, articulated ADB’s approach to promoting regional cooperation. The RCP thus fleshed out one of the key mandates of the Agreement Establishing the Asian Development Bank (the Charter): “The purpose of the Bank shall be to foster economic growth and cooperation in the region… and contribute to the acceleration of the process of economic development of the developing countries in the region, collectively and individually.”

Changing global and regional economic landscapes since then have highlighted several limitations to ADB’s earlier support for RCI, such as fragmented efforts across departments and offices, varied quality of lending and non-lending services for RCI due to the absence of a coherent strategy, and limited support for trade and investment integration, especially in view of the recent proliferation of free trade agreements in the region.

Against this backdrop, ADB adopted an RCI strategy in July 2006 that emphasizes ADB's active role as financier, capacity builder, catalyst and coordinator, and knowledge leader of RCI in Asia and the Pacific.

The RCI Strategy is anchored on four pillars:

  1. Regional and Subregional Economic Cooperation Programs on Cross-border Infrastructure and Related Software - physical connectivity through regional and subregional infrastructure complemented by harmonized regulations, procedures, and standards that will facilitate cross-border trade.
  2. Trade and Investment Cooperation and Integration - elimination of trade and investment barriers through improvement of the transparency, efficiency, and procedural uniformity of cross-border transportation of goods and services.
  3. Monetary and Financial Cooperation and Integration - ensuring economic and financial stability through establishment of regional financial mechanisms.
  4. Cooperation in Regional Public Goods - promotion of regional public goods (RPGs) through coordinated actions to supply RPGs, such as clean air, control of communicable diseases, and management of natural disasters.

In 2007, ADB established the Regional Cooperation and Integration Fund (RCIF) and the RCI Trust Funds under the Regional Cooperation and Integration Financing Partnership Facility. The facility helps pool and provide financial and knowledge resources to support RCI.

Operational Plan for Regional Cooperation and Integration (2016-2020)

In September 2016, ADB approved the RCI Operational Plan for 2016-2020. The operational plan adjusts the implementation of the RCI Strategy to meet the recommendations of ADB’s Strategy 2020 midterm review and the institution’s strategic directions.

It provides guidance for RCI operations in assisting ADB’s developing members harness increased benefits through improved cooperation and integration. The RCI Operational Plan focuses on strengthening connectivity between economies, enhancing competitiveness across connected markets, and improving regional public goods and collective action. The operational plan also aims to strengthen ADB’s institutional capacity to lead in advancing RCI based on a larger, more innovative portfolio covering the four RCI Strategy pillars and high-quality operations. Read the document.

Strategy 2030 and RCI Operational Plan (2019-2024)

ADB’s Strategy 2030 identifies RCI as one of the institution’s seven operational priorities. ADB will enhance connectivity in the region and the competitiveness of its DMCs. It will increase support for regional public goods and collective actions to mitigate cross-border risks such as climate change, pollution, energy and water security, and communicable and infectious diseases. ADB will also enhance financial sector cooperation and strengthen subregional initiatives, including through facilitating knowledge sharing and collaboration, and working with emerging initiatives.

ADB is preparing a new RCI Operational Plan (2019-2024) to align its RCI support with Strategy 2030 priorities.

RCI plays a key role in accelerating the region’s economic development and fulfilling ADB’s vision of a prosperous, inclusive, resilient, and sustainable Asia and the Pacific.