ESCAP Studies in Trade and Investment

2414-0953 (online)
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This series focuses on developments in international and intra-regional trade, as well as economic and social development in Asia and the Pacific, as curated by researchers on the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP).
Reducing Trade Costs In Asia-Pacific Developing Countries

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ESCAP, Yann Duval, Amandeep Saggu, Chorthip Utoktham
07 May 2016
9789210581370 (PDF)

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This publication evaluates the current level of trade costs in the Asia-Pacific region and outlines recent evidence with regard to the impacts of various trade facilitation measures in reducing trade costs. Part I provides an overview of trade costs in Asia and the Pacific, based on the most recent update of the ESCAP-World Bank Trade Cost Database. Policies and factors affecting international trade costs are identified. Key findings and implications from a micro-level analysis of trade procedures in a wide range of Asia-Pacific developing economies are presented. Highlights and recommendations from some of the most recent ESCAP studies on trade facilitation and trade costs in Asia-Pacific are also summarized. Part II features abbreviated versions of five individual ESCAP studies summarized in Part I.
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  • Foreword
    International trade has been a major engine in economic growth and development in Asia and the Pacific. At the same time, rising inequality within and between countries of the region, together with a significant slowdown in economic growth in major export markets during the past decade, suggest that new and better ways to trade are needed to enable the region to maintain competitiveness as well as achieve sustainable and inclusive development. The International Trade Cost Database, maintained by ESCAP, in collaboration with the World Bank, reveals that although tariffs on trade for many countries and subregions in Asia and the Pacific are at historic lows, overall trade costs continue to remain excessively high. Further efforts to reduce transaction costs are necessary in order to ensure that more economies, firms and people can benefit from trade and participation in international production networks.
  • Acknowledgements
    Reducing Trade Costs in Asia-Pacific Developing Countries was prepared under the substantive direction and guidance of Yann Duval, Chief, Trade Facilitation Unit, Trade and Investment Division (TID) of the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP), by Aman Saggu, Consultant, TID, ESCAP, with substantial inputs from Chorthip Utoktham, Consultant, TID, ESCAP. It was produced under the overall supervision of Susan Stone, Director, TID, ESCAP.
  • Acronyms and abbreviations
  • Introduction
    International trade in Asia and the Pacific has experienced an unprecedented rate of growth during the past two decades, growing at a rate of 8.11% a year between 1995 and 2014.1 This is substantially higher than the world GDP, which grew at a rate of just 4.78% a year during the same period.2 Although recent years have witnessed a slowdown in global trading activity – particularly in the Asia-Pacific region – international trade continues to play an important role in contributing to economic growth, productivity and output across many economies by helping to boost jobs and lift people out of poverty.3 Trade is also critical for the transfer of technology, knowledge and skills, and thus for economic development overall, as emphasized by UNCTAD (2015).
  • Reducing trade costs in Asia and the Pacific: Key findings and the way forward
    The ESCAP-World Bank Trade Cost Database is the first database of its type to systematically measure bilateral trade costs across countries and over time. It provides estimates of trade costs across 178 developed and developing countries, annually, during 1995-2012.4 The systematic bilateral trade costs are computed using the inverse gravity model (see Novy, 2013), which estimates trade costs using data on bilateral trade and gross national output, as inputs.
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