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Regional Perspectives on Aid for Trade

image of Regional Perspectives on Aid for Trade

Deepening economic integration via regional co-operation has emerged as a key priority in the reform strategies of most developing economies over the past decade. This is evidenced by the explosive growth in bilateral and regional trading agreements in which they now participate. Regional aid for trade can help developing countries spur regional economic integration, enhance competitiveness, and plug into regional production networks.

Based on a rich set of experiences regarding regional aid for trade projects and programmes, the study finds that regional aid for trade offers great potential as a catalyst for growth, development and poverty reduction. The study recommends greater emphasis on regional aid for trade as a means of improving regional economic integration and development prospects. While regional aid for trade faces many practical implementation challenges, experience has shown that associated problems are not insurmountable but do require thorough planning, careful project formulation, and prioritization on the part of policy makers.

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Case study of Southeast Asia

Regional aid for trade in the Southeast Asia region has not hitherto figured prominently in the agendas of donors and national leaders, and yet there are strong incentives to champion regional public goods in ASEAN, for example, to achieve the open regionalism vision of the ASEAN Economic Community. Indeed, there is a need to translate the physical infrastructure projects in the Greater Mekong Subregion and other sub-regional programmes and projects into trade and economic corridors. Likewise, support for behind-the-border, customs-immigration-quarantine-security, and market access reforms are needed to foster a greater sense of ownership of projects whose net benefits accrue generally to the region. The Coral Triangle case study and regional case stories suggest that capacity building, including training for leaders who understand strategies of competition, co-operation and “co-opetition”, should target specific value chain participation, and anchor programmes in the quality of growth framework that embraces profits, people and planetary concerns.

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