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Trade policies in southeast Asia in the wider Asian perspective

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This paper takes stock of trade policies in Southeast Asia after the Asian crisis and in the wake of the current global economic crisis. It compares trade policies in individual Southeast Asian countries; places them in the context of regional and global economic integration; and particularly draws implications for the region from the rise of China and India. The first section looks at recent trade and FDI patterns in Southeast Asia. Then follows an overview of key trade-policy trends, in the region overall and in individual countries. The next sections examine ASEAN countries in international trade negotiations and agreements: first in the WTO, especially in the Doha Round; then within ASEAN; and finally on cross-regional FTAs. The paper concludes that ASEAN countries cannot rely on external tracks 'from above' for meaningful trade policy reform. Since the Asian crisis there has been a slowdown of reform momentum, and too much reliance on trade negotiations - especially FTAs. Rather, countries in the region have to rely on themselves - 'from below' as it were. The engine of liberalisation and regulatory reform has to be home-driven - as it was before the Asian crisis - with governments taking unilateral measures in response to internal and external conditions.

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