Ahead of the third East Asia Summit (EAS) in Singapore on November 20 and 21, to be attended by leaders from 16 nations (ASEAN + 6) including Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, a panel of experts have suggested that the region should liberalise tariff and non-tariff barriers in a phased manner by 2020. The region must also eventually work towards creating an Asian currency unit and energy forum, the panel has recommended.
Aimed at providing inputs for the EAS — launched in December 2005 in Kuala Lumpur as an annual forum for dialogue on regional issues — many recommendations emerged from a conference organised jointly by the Delhi-based Research and Information System for Developing Countries (RIS), the Singapore-based Institute of South East Asian Studies and the Tokyo-based Institute of Developing Economies.
A RIS study says that economic integration within the East Asian community has the potential to generate billions of dollars of new output and serve as the engine of growth for the continent and the world economy. In fact, about 51 per cent of Asia’s exports are conducted within the region and about 27 per cent of world exports come from Asia.
K. Kesavapany, director of Institute of South Asian Studies emphasised the growing importance of the region and said intra-regional trade as a share of East Asia (ASEAN plus China, Japan, Korea) trade had risen significantly from 39 per cent in 1980 to 55 per cent in 2006. And ASEAN + 6 countries (which includes India, Australia and New Zealand) rose from 33 to 43 per cent in the same period. “This high level of economic integration in East Asia is comparable to the European Union’s intra-regional trade of 65 per cent in 2006,” he said.
Inaugurating the conference External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee said that India would work closely with its neighbours to create a strong, vibrant Asian Economic Community to ensure that the 21st century is the Asian Century.
“It is upon us to put in place a political and economic architecture that is conducive to Asia’s emergence as a pre-eminent region of stability and prosperity,” Mukherjee said.
During the second EAS held in January this year, leaders of the 16 member countries decided to move forward on the regional cooperation agenda in five sectors namely finance, energy, education, natural disaster mitigation and controlling avian flu in the region.