The Asian Development Bank recently brought out a report titled "Asian Economic Integrator Monitor" which analyses, inter alia, regional co-operation and integration in the Asian context. Business Beyond the Reef has commented on the report recently.
Two aspects dealt in the report caught my attention:
1. The trade/GDP ratio in Asian countries has gradually increased over the years. This signifies integration into an interconnected world economy as well as increased reliance on the external, globalised world as compared to a domestic, inward looking policy.
Table 5: Trade/GDP Ratio by Region and Subregion (%)
1990 2000 2010 2011
Asia 30.1 40.4 54.1 57.3
East Asia 26.7 34.1 51.1 52.8
People's Republic of China 29.9 39.6 50.2 49.9
Southeast Asia 89.4 130.8 107.2 116.1
ASEAN-4 62.9 103.7 78.1 86.0
BCLMV 75.3 84.4 110.1 130.8
Singapore 293.1 289.3 292.3 299.4
Central Asia - 62.8 52.4 59.7
South Asia 16.0 23.0 36.7 44.0
India 12.9 19.5 35.9 44.2
The Pacific and Oceania 28.3 37.3 36.3 37.8
European Union – 57.6 62.5 67.2
North America 18.4 25.6 27.4 29.9
World 31.1 40.2 48.0 51.9
2. Role of Asian countries in the dispute settlement process of the WTO
"Some 31 economies in Asia have acceded to the WTO. Asia has also been an active participant in WTO processes. For example, the region has been active in pursuing cases involving anti-dumping and countervailing duties (Table 18). But multilateral cooperation goes beyond the design and use of existing measures. International law often progresses through adjudication, particularly since the Doha Round has stalled. Middle- and high-income Asian economies have been active participants in dispute settlement since the WTO was established in 1995 (Table 19). In addition, Asian nationals have served as panelists to disputes, and several Asian representatives sit on the Appellate Body,which hears appeals from panel cases and cannot be overridden."
Is the increased participation of Asian countries in the WTO DSU a sign of a strategic engagement in the WTO or an ad hoc response to disputes that have an impact on economic interests? Do Asian countries have a development agenda that they consciously pursue at the adjudication body of the WTO? It would be interesting to study the comparative journeys of Asian countries in their pursuit at the WTO DSM in order to achieve their domestic interests. Are there lessons they can learn from each other that can be a ground for developing country co-operation? While national interests ultimately should guide WTO engagement, is there scope for a wider partnership in the WTO of the Asian economies? Do trade realities and converging interests mandate such an eventuality or are the interests too diverse and conflicting to achieve such a partnership?