The expansion of intra-Asian trade: an analysis of structural patterns and determinants
The paper analyses sectoral patterns of intra-Asian trade for selected Asian countries as well as for sub-regions within Asia. Beyond a general trend towards manufactures, it reveals remarkable differences in specialisation profiles between lagging South Asian countries still concentrating on labourintensive products while forerunning East and Southeast Asian countries have successfully diversified their manufactured exports towards more skill-intensive products. Relative to extra-Asian trade, almost all sample countries concentrate their intra-Asian exports more on non-manufactures. Within manufactures, resource-intensive goods still play a larger role in intra-Asian trade than in trade outside Asia. This reflects both differences in factor endowments inside Asia but also differences in access conditions (trade policy). Growth in intra- Asian trade is attributed not only to overall economic growth but also to large declines in transaction costs. The latter is reflected in lower distance-oriented costs, trade liberalisation and, for sub-regions, to convergence in exchange rate changes. The paper sees no need for institutionalised regional integration but advocates continuing integration into the multilateral trading system complemented by some sort of regional co-operation concerning common rules of facilitating factor movements and enhancing policy coherence and stability.
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