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The Asia-Pacific region, including of course, the Asean community, is awash with trade pacts.
There has been a rapid increase in free trade agreements in Asia since 2000 with about 50 in place in East Asia alone as of January 2011 and another 80 or so currently being prepared. East and Southeast Asian economies like China, Korea, Thailand, and Singapore have played leading roles in the proliferation of the agreements, while others such as the Philippines have become increasingly active through Asean. The agreements have all boosted trade within the region.
One glance at the diagram (opposite page) shows how complex the agreements are because they apply to different sectors and have different requirements, raising the cost for companies that trade with many countries. Small and medium-sized businesses, in particular, struggle to make use of free trade agreements. Consolidating this “noodle bowl” of agreements would help individual companies and economies. In the lower left of the diagram is the Asean community.
The consolidation concept has apparently caught on in the Asean community as Srirat Rastapana, director-general of the Thai Trade Negotiations Department, Department of Commerce, says that Japan has proposed consolidation of free-trade pacts with Asean into a single agreement for 16 countries.
In January 2011 Masahiro Kawai, Dean of the Asian Development Bank Institute, and GaneshanWignaraja, Principal Economist in the bank’s Office of Regional Economic Integration surveyed 841 firms in China, Japan, Korea, the Philippines, Thailand, and Singapore and found that 53 percent either use or plan to use free trade agreements.
The survey was published in the book, “Asia’s Free Trade Agreements: How is Business Responding?”
The 16 countries comprise the 10 Asean members and China, Japan, South Korea, India, Australia and New Zealand. Currently, there is a free trade agreement between Asean and each trading partner except Australia and New Zealand. However, the Thai Commerce Ministry said China would prefer to exclude India, Australia and New Zealand ..........
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