East Asian Economic Integration and its Impact on Future Growth
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Two propositions appear to be gaining wide currency, given the revealed preference for preferential trade agreements (PTAs) in the East Asian region and elsewhere. The first is that economic integration is a good way to promote economic growth. The second is that PTAs, particularly ones that go beyond goods trade, are an effective way to promote economic integration. Yet both propositions are empirical questions. In this paper, a partial evaluation of the evidence suggests caution is called for. Current PTAs appear to be doing little to remove the important impediments to growth in the region. Far greater income gains would come from comprehensive reform of nondiscriminatory impediments to competition, as part of a thorough-going program of unilateral domestic regulatory reform. It may be time to rethink East Asian economic integration as a policy priority, or at least review the way in which it might be pursued.