East Asia Integrates: A Trade Policy Agenda for Shared Growth

By Koh, Agnes | Journal of Southeast Asian Economies, December 2004 | Go to article overview

East Asia Integrates: A Trade Policy Agenda for Shared Growth


Koh, Agnes, Journal of Southeast Asian Economies


East Asia Integrates: A Trade Policy Agenda for Shared Growth. Edited by Kathie Krumm and Homi Kharas. New York: World Bank, 2004. Pp. 201.

The authors make clear from the onset that they do not in any way attempt a comprehensive analysis of East Asian economic integration. Instead, they have provided a framework for analysis on the impact that China's accession to the WTO would have on the region and the post-traumatic solutions being sought after the Asian crisis of 1997-98. The overview presents a sufficient background of the statistical trends on regional and intra-regional trade, showcasing a clear increase in trade within the region with a special focus on China. Essentially, the editors advocate that East Asia should jump on the bandwagon of global liberalization as the region stands to benefit most from it.

It may be inferred from the literature that the authors predict that deeper integration within East Asia would facilitate global liberalization and at the same time motivate policy-makers to improve the standards of resource allocation and logistical costs, therefore increasing competition and promoting better economic practices. Additionally, the authors provide a formula: by using the tools of regional and bilateral agreements, the process of multilateral liberalization may be enhanced.

Part I of the book deals with the increasing opportunities in trade arrangements made possible with the accession of China to the WTO in December 2001. An analysis of the impact of China is provided, within its own economy and the rest of East Asia. China is seen as an important driver of change and the chief beneficiary of trade integration within the region. Regionalism is sought after as an intermediary to further global liberalization. By working with Southeast Asia in particular, trade integration with China as a regional bloc could possibly be the key to unlocking the barriers to global free trade.

Specialization in agriculture and processing is encouraged in a regional context to deal with poverty in developing economies. The liberalization of agricultural trade through the reduction of tariffs and other market access barriers is hence of utmost importance to the poor of East Asia. This provides a framework for negotiations to the WTO as a central trade policy objective for the region. However, in view of the limited capacity and resources of some countries within the region, caution is advised to policy-makers when exploring regional economic co-operation arrangements. Nevertheless, proposals for regional financial co-operation and economic regionalism are seen in a positive light.

To prevent another systemic crisis like the one experienced in 1997, surveillance and suitable mechanisms co-ordinated as a regional effort would improve economic efficiency and security. Coupled with preferential trade agreements (PTAs), a trade membership circle could create spin-off trading arrangements that lead ultimately to multilateral trade liberalization. The idea here is based on the premise of each economy forming a bloc with one neighbour, and then the members of one agreement merging with those of another agreement and so on. The crisis has thus produced an impetus for open integrated trade by means of formal economic co-operation.

Part 2 of the book then goes on to present case studies in development orientation for state agendas. An East Asian perspective in trade and logistics is first highlighted as pivotal in increasing trade competitiveness among countries. Governments are encouraged to move towards privatization of logistics services to facilitate the pace of trade. Regional dialogue is advised for the harmonization of national, regional, and international rules and policies related to trade facilitation.

The issue of intellectual property rights (IPR) to protect industrial inventions, authors, and traditional knowledge are also examined in patents, copyrights, and research and development (R&D). …

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