A limited agreement

On the best option for trade liberalization in the Asian continent
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First Published: Wed, Nov 21 2012. 01 16 AM IST
(Left to right) Brunei’s Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah, US President Barack Obama, Cambodia’s Prime Minister Hun Sen, Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao and Australia’s Prime Minister Julia Gillard in Phnom Penh on Tuesday, Photo: Damir Sagolj/Reuters
(Left to right) Brunei’s Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah, US President Barack Obama, Cambodia’s Prime Minister Hun Sen, Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao and Australia’s Prime Minister Julia Gillard in Phnom Penh on Tuesday, Photo: Damir Sagolj/Reuters
Finally, Asian leaders have taken the big step towards trade liberalization in the continent. There is no doubt that the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) is a big step in opening doors for trade. But is it the best option?
It isn’t.
A more effective and far more rewarding option is to revive the Doha Round of global trade liberalization. That is primarily for two reasons. One, it will benefit a far larger number of developing countries—importantly from Africa. Two, and perhaps even more vitally, a liberalized global trade regime has the potential to inject much-needed legitimacy for the free trade project. If countries as diverse as Burkina Faso and China stand to gain from trade, that option will be politically more robust.
RCEP, important as it is for the region, has limitations from that perspective. The world needs to think bigger.
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First Published: Wed, Nov 21 2012. 01 16 AM IST
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