A top United Nations official has called on countries in Asia and the Pacific to strengthen regional ties in an effort to boost trade and investment and increase economic growth, kicking off a week-long event in Bangkok focusing on these critical issues.
The Executive Secretary of the UN Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) noted that regional economic cooperation can be a driver of growth for a region traditionally reliant on trade with developed countries.
“Some of the world’s largest economies are in our region, [and] a more unified market of East Asian countries would be a potential economic powerhouse and an emerging centre of gravity of the world economy,” Noeleen Heyzer told 150 trade researchers and policymakers at the Asia-Pacific Trade Economists’ Conference.
“Strengthening regional connectivity will leverage our complementary strengths and synergies,” she added in her remarks to the two-day conference, which is the lead-off event for the inaugural Asia-Pacific Trade and Investment Week.
Ms. Heyzer also called for streamlining trade procedures, and untangling the “noodle bowl” – consolidating the 151 existing bilateral and regional trade agreements – which will encourage greater levels of economic integration.
Also at today’s meeting, several speakers noted that although the three countries that have weathered the global economic slowdown with the least damage are in Asia – China, India and Indonesia – the crisis still required regional leaders to fundamentally rethink their trade policies.
The first-ever Asia-Pacific Trade and Investment Week will also feature the first session of ESCAP’s Committee on Trade and Investment, which is scheduled to hear an address from Supachai Panitchpakdi, the Secretary-General of the UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), on Thursday.