‘Harmonisation of FTAs a must’

New Delhi, November 10:

Asian Development Bank (ADB) vice-president Liqun Jin today called for closer regional cooperation while urging Asian countries to harmonise free trade agreements for better global integration.

“Regional integration agreements have to be properly handled so that they do not serve as hindrances to global integration,” Jim said here at the two-day long Mekong Development Forum (MDF) organised by the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII).

The multilateral agency has initiated a study of free trade agreements in Asia and is expected to recommend the harmonisation of these agreements with one another and with World Trade Organisation (WTO) guidelines on global trade.

“Doing so will ensure that Asian regionalism remains an open regionalism — open to trade and investment with—in the region and to integration with the global economy,” said Jin.

Being held to foster regional economic cooperation in the Greater Mekong Subregion (GMS) and South Asia, around 100 participants from major Indian private and public enterprises, government officials, as well as representatives from six GMS countries — Cambodia, China, Lao PDR, Myanmar, Thailand, and Vietnam — are attending the forum.

The ADB vice-president stressed that regional cooperation and economic integration were the keys to unlocking developing Asia’s tremendous potential for sustained growth and prosperity.

Owing to several factors like diversity among governments, lack of common cultural and institutional traditions and preference for non-binding agreements, Jin said an “EU-style integration is unlikely in Asia, at least in the foreseeable future”.

“Because of the absence of supra-regional institutions, building a pan-Asian community will require vision, political will and a deep understanding of the long-term nature of the processes involved,” he said.

Citing the increase in number and scope of regional cooperation initiatives in recent years, as well as the growing intra-regional trade and investment in Asia, Jin pointed out that economic and social disparities among and within countries in the region are widening due in part to unequal or inadequate access to markets, finance, and technology.