Southeast Asia in the WTO

Southeast Asia in the WTO

Southeast Asia in the WTO

Southeast Asia in the WTO

Synopsis

In this large-scale ISEAS study, Razeen Sally looks at Southeast Asia in the World Trade Organization, against the background of national trade policy trends post-Asian crisis, sluggish ASEAN economic integration, and the recent high-speed proliferation of bilateral and regional trade negotiations. ASEAN co-operation in the WTO has broken down, with little prospect of revival. Nevertheless, Sally argues forcefully that Southeast Asia needs a liberal, rules-based multilateral trading system; and that the WTO needs active Southeast Asian participation. ASEAN countries should forge multiple coalitions, revolving around the United States and China, to restore workability and purpose to a lame, crisis-ravaged WTO. This would provide headwind for what matters most: unilateral (national) trade-and-investment liberalization and pro-competitive regulatory reforms to revive and enhance policy competitiveness in the region.

Excerpt

Trade policy is back on the radar screen in Southeast Asia, having been overshadowed by monetary and financial matters since the Asian crisis. This is due primarily to the New Regionalism, the proliferation of initiatives to form free trade agreements (FTAs) in the Asia-Pacific. Singapore blazed the trail, with others now trying to catch up. Not too far away, China has acceded to the World Trade Organization (WTO), crowning the most sweeping set of market-oriented reforms seen in the past decade. and beyond, the wto finally witnessed the launch of a new round of multilateral trade negotiations in Doha. the round, however, came to a screeching halt with the collapse of talks at the WTO's Fifth Ministerial Conference in Cancun, Mexico, in September 2003. This fresh crisis raises grave doubts about the future of the wto and that of the multilateral trading system — with weighty implications for Southeast Asia. Time, therefore, to take a fresh look at Southeast Asia in the multilateral trading system.

From the mid-1980s to the early 1990s, a critical mass of asean members was proactive in the gatt (General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade, the WTO's predecessor) and, notwithstanding internal differences, presented a common front. asean “hung . . .

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