Asia: Stronger Regional Cooperation Can Promote Inclusive Growth, Says ADB President

May. 07, 2007

STRONGER REGIONAL cooperation and integration in Asia and the Pacific can help to spread the benefits of development and promote inclusive growth in the region, ADB President Haruhiko Kuroda told a seminar at the 40th Annual Meeting yesterday.

In his opening remarks at the seminar, Emerging Asian Regionalism: Ten Years After the Crisis, Mr. Kuroda said regionalism can help achieve the long-term vision of a poverty-free Asia, which is still home to two thirds of the worlds poor.

Rapid growth in Asia in the past four decades has helped to lift millions out of poverty. But falling absolute poverty disguises widening income and social inequalities, and deprivation of opportunities and choices faced by millions in the region. About 1.9 billion or 57.4% of the regions population still lives on less than $2 a day.

Regionalism can help achieve the long-term vision of a poverty-free, prosperous Asia, Mr. Kuroda said. Regionalism can also help spread the benefits of development and bridge widening income and social inequalities as well as provide increased opportunities for all.

Despite their diverse economic structures, income levels and resource endowments, Asian economies are beginning to forge closer regional ties.

Market-driven regional integration has been the key source of regionalism in East Asia for a long time. But since the 1997/98 financial crisis, Asian policymakers have realized that closer cooperation and adoption of a multi-speed and multi-track approach can bring benefits to all.

Increased regional cooperation and integration offers a win-win outcome for all Asian economies at different stages of development, Mr. Kuroda said.

ADB has recently begun a flagship study on emergence of Asian regionalism, ten years after the crisis. Detailed information about the study is available on the Asian Regional Integration Center website. The study focuses on regionalism as a key element of the recovery process and regions economic dynamism.

Speaking at the seminar, Indonesian Finance Minister Sri Mulyani Indrawati said good, consistent and well sequenced policies are key to economies looking to embrace integration process.

There is strong need for some collective action although we recognize the diversity and the fact that different countries are at different stages of development, she added.

Toyoo Gyothen, President of the Institute for International Monetary Affairs, said countries in the region can work on issues like environment, security, etc., to promote mutual trust that will provide the platform for stronger regional cooperation and integration.

We will need political will to promote regional financial integration, Mr. Gyothen said.

Panelists at the seminar said Asia had recovered strongly after the 1997/98 crisis and enjoyed buoyant growth.

China has been a good student of the Asian financial crisis, said Yu Yongding, Director of Chinese academy of Social Science.

Nouriel Roubini, Professor of Economics at New York University, said stronger regional cooperation and integration could help the region to rely less on the United States as a consumer of the last resort.

Panelists at the seminar said stronger intra-regional trade and lack of progress in multilateral trade negotiation had led to a proliferation of bilateral free trade agreements.

While a spurt in bilateral free trade agreements is not the optimal solution, they agreed it was the best way to make use of a second-best solution.

The seminar was moderated by Guy de Jonquieres, Asia columnist and commentator of the Financial Times.

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