East Asian Economic Integration
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East Asian Economic Integration

Law, Trade and Finance

Edited by Ross P. Buckley, Richard Weixing Hu and Douglas W. Arner

This book analyses recent developments and likely future paths for trade and financial integration in East Asia. It suggests a more coherent, balanced way forward for regional economic integration and analyses implications for institution building in East Asia.
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Chapter 6: Bilateral and Regional Trade Agreements in Asia: A Skeptic’s View

Bryan Mercurio


Bryan Mercurio INTRODUCTION The per capita gross domestic product (GDP) of almost every Asian nation has rapidly risen throughout the last three decades.1 During this time, intra-Asian regional trade has also grown at a brisk rate – in large part due to the enhanced specialization among regional industries and the interlinking of regional production networks which facilitate production sharing among and between companies.2 Without doubt, liberalization commitments at the multilateral level have greatly assisted the process of deeper regional integration. So too has the corresponding expansion of bilateral and regional trade agreements (RTAs)3 between and among Asian nations.4 In some areas, liberalization commitments made as part of intra-Asian RTAs have been critical to the process of increased regional trade. Some commentators even go as far as saying that RTAs deserve the credit for increasing regional trade and increasing per capita GDP. It is the contention of this chapter, however, that the role of RTAs in expanding 1 Statistics can be viewed at http://unstats.un.org/unsd/databases.htm, accessed 2 September 2010. 2 See generally Prema-chandra Athukorala and Archanun Kohpaiboon, ‘IntraRegional Trade in East Asia: The Decoupling Fallacy, Crisis, and Policy Challenges’, (2009) ADBI Working Paper Series No. 177, accessed 2 September 2010, http:// www.adbi.org/files/2009.12.11.wp177.intra.regional.trade.east.asia.pdf. 3 This chapter uses the abbreviation ‘RTA’ when generally referencing bilateral and regional trade agreements, and ‘FTA’ when referring to a specific agreement, regardless of the official moniker (e.g. Free Trade Agreement, Closer Economic Relations, Economic Partnership Agreement). 4 For discussion, see Richard Baldwin, ‘Multilateralizing Regionalism: Spaghetti Bowls...

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