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Trade policy in Asia: where next with a crippled WTO and weak FTAs?

European Centre for International Political Economy

No. 01/2007

Trade Policy in Asia

Razeen Sally*

Trade policy in Asia is dangerously unbalanced. It rests on a shaky leg of discriminatory bilateral and regional FTAs. Its other
WTO leg has gone to sleep: most Asian
countries have neglected the WTO in
favour of FTAs. Its regional-cooperation
arm is limp: grand visions for regional
economic integration are mostly empty
conference chatter. Above all, core
abdominal strength through unilateral
liberalisation and pro-market domestic
reforms has weakened post-Asian crisis.
China is the conspicuous exception. Now,
after the collapse of the Doha round and
a fraying multilateral trading system, three
priorities are called for. First, a clutch of
East-Asian countries plus India should be
active in “coalitions of the willing” to set
the WTO on its legs again. US leadership
and a Chinese helping hand will be crucial.
Second, existing FTAs should be cleaned
up and new FTA initiatives only launched
with caution and a sense of economic
strategy. Third, and most important, it is
vital that the engine of Chinese unilateral
liberalization does not stall. That is the
only major route to further liberalization
and regulatory reform across Asia and
beyond - through competitive emulation,
not trade negotiations.

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* Razeen Sally ( is a Director of ECIPE and a Senior Lecturer at the London School of Economics.

 source: ECIPE