Bali Ministerial a turning point for the WTO?

Delegates attend the opening of a World Trade Organization ministerial conference on December 15, 2011 in Geneva. (Photo: AAP)

Authors: Matthias Helble and Ganeshan Wignaraja, ADBI

Trade negotiators are currently intensifying their efforts to prepare a deal for the upcoming WTO Ministerial Conference in Bali from 3–6 December 2013. Agreeing on an early harvest would be an important step to re-launch the beleaguered Doha Round and boost Asia’s trade. If little progress is visible in Bali, it is likely that trade policy attention will shift more to mega-regional trade agreements. Read more…

Future of the world trading system: Asian perspectives

World Trade Organisation (WTO) director general Pascal Lamy answers a question during a news conference following a Trade Negotiations Committee meeting, at the WTO Headquarters, in Geneva. (Photo: AAP)

Authors: Richard Baldwin, Graduate Institute, and Masahiro Kawai and Ganeshan Wignaraja, ADBI

The WTO risks losing its centrality in the world trading system due to its focus on 20th century trade issues and lack of progress in the Doha Round.

Asia, meanwhile, has built a deep network of supply chains and is experimenting with new forms of regional trade governance. Read more…

Why the RCEP matters for Asia and the world

Delegates from 16 Asia Pacific nations pose for photos in Bandar Seri Begawan, Brunei, on 9 May 2013, prior to the first round of negotiations of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership. (Photo: AAP).

Author: Ganeshan Wignaraja, ADBI

Mega-regional trade deals are in vogue.

Negotiations for the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) are grabbing headlines around the world. Meanwhile, Asia’s own mega-regional trade deal — the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) — is quietly being negotiated. Read more…

Comparing China and India’s FTA strategies

Chinese vice president and leader-in-waiting Xi Jinping shakes hands with Laos Prime Minister Thongsing Thammavong in Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region 20 September 2012. China and India are focusing on FTAs rather than broad, multilateral agreements (Photo: AAP).

Author: Ganeshan Wignaraja, ADBI

Over the past decade, China and India have emphasised FTAs to gain market access amidst an impasse at the WTO Doha Round and signs of protectionism.

With 12 FTAs in effect in China and 13 in India as of June 2012, the Asian giants are among the FTA leaders in the Asia Pacific. Read more…

Can India really surpass China?

India's Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee and Chinese Finance Minister Xie Xuren, attend the BRIC finance ministers news conference on 22 September 2011, during the IMF/ World Bank annual meetings in Washington. (Photo: AAP)

Author: Ganeshan Wignaraja, ADB

While rapid trade-led growth has enabled China to surge ahead of other developing economies in recent decades, a number of analysts are projecting that India’s growth rates will soon outpace China’s.

India’s democratic political culture and favourable demographics, both of which are viewed as being more conducive to sustaining rapid economic growth over the long-term, are often cited as reasons for this. But amid such speculation, several key factors — including market conditions, economic policies and supply-side factors — suggest that China will continue to outperform India over the next decade. Read more…

The Asian noodle bowl: is it serious for business?

Authors: Masahiro Kawai and Ganeshan Wignaraja, ADBI, Tokyo

There is a lively debate going on about the impact of free trade agreements (FTAs) on East Asia’s business between those who view the agreements as a harmful Asian ‘noodle bowl’ of trade deals and others who see net beneficial effects in terms of regional liberalization and a building block to multilateral liberalization. A lack of enterprise-level data has made it difficult to resolve the debate. Providing new evidence from surveys of 609 East Asian firms (in Japan, Singapore, Korea, Thailand and the Philippines), our new study seeks to address the critical question of whether the Asian noodle bowl of multiple overlapping FTAs is harmful to business activity particularly small SMEs.

The surveys suggest that the Asian ‘noodle bowl’ does not seem to have severely harmed the region’s business activity to date. Use of FTA preferences (22 per cent of responding firms) is higher than expected from previous studies. Furthermore, only 27 per cent of responding firms said that multiple rules of origin significantly added to business cost. As more FTAs under negotiation take effect and the complexity of the Asian ‘noodle bowl’ increases, however, the impact on business is likely to intensify. Implementation of key policies and closer public-private sector cooperation can help mitigate negative effects and facilitate a more SME-inclusive business response to FTAs. Suggestions include: encouraging MFN liberalization, rationalisation of rules of origin, upgrading origin administration, increased awareness of FTA provisions, improving business participation in FTA consultations and SME support.

See the full ADBI working paper here