Regional Cooperation and Integration Prospects in Asia

Abstract: There is indeed a strong opportunity for South Asian countries to benefit from intensifying regional ties. As a regional policy dialogue becomes stronger and barriers are gradually eliminated, or at least substantially reduced, economic integration will intensify in the next decade or two. This is partly due to the very low level of integration it starts from. For instance, intraregional trade in South Asia accounts for only 5.5 per cent of total trade, as opposed to East Asia’s almost 60 per cent. As the region continues to build its economic infrastructure and new cross-border projects are implemented, these will not only intensify trade in goods and services, but also facilitate the movement of people. Easing existing cross-border impediments to trade and labour movements, will likely be the strongest economic driver over the coming decade. But the key to any experiment in cooperation and economic integration is political will.