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East Asia in World Trade: The Decoupling Fallacy, Crisis, and Policy Challenges


  • Prema-chandra Athukorala
  • Archanun Kohpaiboon


This paper examines the export experience of China and other East Asian economies in the aftermaths of the global financial crisis against the backdrop of pre-crisis trade patterns. The analysis is motivated by the ‘decoupling’ thesis, which was a popular theme in the Asian policy circles in the lead-up to the onset of the recent financial crisis, and aims to probe three key issues: Was the East Asian trade integration story that underpinned the decoupling thesis simply a statistical artifact or the massive export contraction caused by an overreaction of traders to the global economic crisis and/or by the drying up of trade credit, which overpowered the cushion provided by intra-regional trade? What are the new policy challenges faced by the East Asian economies? Is there room for an integrated policy response that marks a clear departure from the pre-crisis policy stance favoring export-oriented growth? The findings caution against a possible policy backlash against openness to foreign trade arising from the new-found enthusiasm for rebalancing growth, and make a strong case for a long-term commitment to non-discriminatory multilateral and unilateral trade liberalization.

Suggested Citation

  • Prema-chandra Athukorala & Archanun Kohpaiboon, 2010. "East Asia in World Trade: The Decoupling Fallacy, Crisis, and Policy Challenges," FIW Working Paper series 052, FIW.
  • Handle: RePEc:wsr:wpaper:y:2010:i:052

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Miguel Almunia & Agustín Bénétrix & Barry Eichengreen & Kevin H. O'Rourke & Gisela Rua, 2010. "From Great Depression to Great Credit Crisis: similarities, differences and lessons," Economic Policy, CEPR;CES;MSH, vol. 25, pages 219-265, April.
    2. Prema-chandra Athukorala, 2005. "Product Fragmentation and Trade Patterns in East Asia," Asian Economic Papers, MIT Press, vol. 4(3), pages 1-27, Fall.
    3. Yung Chul Park & Kwanho Shin, 2009. "Economic Integration and Changes in the Business Cycle in East Asia: Is the Region Decoupling from the Rest of the World?-super-," Asian Economic Papers, MIT Press, vol. 8(1), pages 107-140, Winter.
    4. Prema-chandra Athukorala, 2009. "Production Networks and Trade Patterns:East Asia in a Global Context," Departmental Working Papers 2009-15, The Australian National University, Arndt-Corden Department of Economics.
    5. TAKAHASHI Katsuhide & URATA Shujiro, 2008. "On the Use of FTAs by Japanese Firms," Discussion papers 08002, Research Institute of Economy, Trade and Industry (RIETI).
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    Cited by:

    1. Prema-chandra Athukorala, 2009. "The Rise of China and East Asian Export Performance: Is the Crowding-Out Fear Warranted?," The World Economy, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 32(2), pages 234-266, February.
    2. Alyson C. Ma & Ari Van Assche, 2012. "Is East Asia's Economic Fate Chained to the West?," CIRANO Working Papers 2012s-11, CIRANO.

    More about this item


    global financial crisis; global production sharing; production networks; China;

    JEL classification:

    • F15 - International Economics - - Trade - - - Economic Integration
    • F23 - International Economics - - International Factor Movements and International Business - - - Multinational Firms; International Business
    • O53 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economywide Country Studies - - - Asia including Middle East


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