Multilateralizing Asian Regionalism

Richard Baldwin, Masahiro Kawai
JEL codes: 
ADBI Working Paper Series

Motivated by the proliferation of free trade agreements (FTAs) in Asia over the last decade, this paper studies the challenges faced by the Asian “noodle bowl”—overlapping, multiple trade rules, regulations, and standards in Asia—in the process of regional and global trade integration. The paper first highlights the importance of trade and investment linkages among Asian economies that have formed Asian supply chains, called Factory Asia. It then considers ways and means of multilateralizing Asian trade regionalism by discussing the pros and cons of various approaches—such as the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN)-centered regional trade agreements, including the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership agreement, and cross-regional FTAs, including the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement and a future Asia–European Union FTA. The paper emphasizes the promising role of inclusive Asian regionalism and the need to move to global integration.