Singapore, Oct 4 (UNI) The surge in the number of free trade agreements (FTAs) in East Asia since the Asian financial crisis has prompted a lively debate on the pros and cons of bilateral trade agreements versus multilateralism, their impact, and future path of FTAs in the region.
The Asian Development Bank's (ADB) Asia Regional Integration Centre estimates that there are 198 FTAs that are currently either under negotiation or under implementation.
Some have also raised concerns about the harmful 'noodle bowl' effects of these mushrooming FTAs.
A new study done by Masahiro Kawai, Dean of ADB Institute, and Ganesh Wignaraja, Senior Economist at ADB's Office of Regional Economic Integration, argue that the World Trade Organisation elements need to be further expanded and the negative aspects of FTAs be minimized.
The study concludes that consolidation of multiple and overlapping FTAs into a single East Asian FTA could help mitigate the harmful 'noodle bowl' effects of different rules of origin and standards and that consolidation at the ASEAN+6 level would yield the largest gains to East Asia, while the losses to non-members would be relatively small.