Regional integration in South Asia : what role for trade facilitation ?
The trade performance of countries in South Asia over the past two decades has been poor relative to other regions. Exports from South Asia have doubled over the past 20 years to approximately USD 100 billion. In contrast, East Asia's exports grew ten times over the same period. The low level of intraregional trade has contributed to weak export performance in South Asia. The empirical analysis in this paper demonstrates gains to trade in the region from reform and capacity building in trade facilitation at the regional level. When considering intraregional trade, if countries in South Asia raise capacity halfway to East Asia's average, trade is estimated to rise by USD 2.6 billion. This is approximately 60 percent of the total intraregional trade in South Asia. Countries in the region also have a stake in the success of efforts to promote capacity building outside its borders. If South Asia and the rest of the world were to raise their levels of trade facilitation halfway to the East Asian average, the gains to the region would be estimated at USD 36 billion. Out of those gains, about 87 percent of the total would be generated from South Asia's own efforts (leaving the rest of the world unchanged). In summary, we find that the South Asian region's expansion of trade can be substantially advanced with programs of concrete action to address barriers to trade facilitation to advance regional goals.
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