Munich Personal RePEc Archive

Regional Economic Integration in Central Asia and South Asia

Lord, Montague (2015): Regional Economic Integration in Central Asia and South Asia.

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The Central and South Asia regions have a long history of trade relations. There have nearly always been movements of goods and people between the regions, which in turn have linked their cultural and religious ties and impacted political relations. Yet today’s trade between the two regions remains low and significantly below regional trade in Africa, the Middle East, Latin America and Southeast Asia. Using different measures of trade, we estimate that inter-regional trade is only between 0.2 and 4 percent of total trade to all destinations. Even within the regions, trade among countries remains low. Intra-regional trade in Central Asia is less than 5 percent and that of South Asia is 1.5 percent of trade with all countries. The present study explores opportunities and challenges for intra- and inter-regional trade in the Central and South Asia areas by analyzing a wide range of channels impacting trade. Trade enhancing channels are divided into two broad categories. The first set refers to disaggregated or product-level characterizations of trade affecting competitiveness and complementarities between trading partners within and between the regions. The second refers to price, non-price and structural determinants that tend to affect all products traded between countries. The analysis also includes a gravity model to gauge the effect of economic growth, distance and price, non-price and structural determinants of regional trade. The empirical results indicate that, under existing trade patterns, the potential value of trade in the two regions is nearly twice as large as the actual level. The finding is not surprising. Opportunities for regional trade abound and there are numerous policy initiatives that could be taken to help spur trade and investment in and between the two regions. Among the possibilities are regional value chains that could create large gains in terms of higher value additions to exports, technologies transfers and employment generation. The analysis of different types of value chains in this study categorizes industries according to their value added contribution to trade, and it prioritizes industries according to interests ranging from the diversification of industries across resource-intensive, labor-intensive, and technology-intensive industries, as well as the potential participation of Afghanistan due to its comparative advantages in products exported by the industries or its geographic location for transit trade. Based on quantitative analyzes of actual and potential channels of trade, the study ranks the pattern of trade in terms of its adaptability to intra- and cross-regional commerce in the Central and South Asia regions and its predilection for regional value chains. The ranking uses an innovative methodology that takes account of difference preference orderings of stakeholders, such as governments and development partners that have interests in pro-poor trade, or large companies that favor cross-border fragmentation of production for regional and global value chains. Ratings are classified into the following categories: trade complementarities, export diversification, comparative advantages, structural factors, intra-industry trade, price competitiveness, trade costs, economic growth; and regional value chains. The baseline ratings suggest the following: First, the larger economies have higher ratings than the smaller, less developed ones, suggesting that size and level of development matter in the development of regional trade. Second, among the different channels of regional trade development, the most effective ones are (i) measures that promote price competitiveness; (ii) intra-industry trade; (iii) trade complementarities; and (iv) economic growth. Third, the effectiveness of country-specific measures differ, as for example in Afghanistan, where the trade enhancing channels that matter the most are structural factors, price competitiveness and trade complementarities with other countries in South Asia and with Central Asia in general. These findings have important implications for the ability of different trade-related policies, programs and institutional mechanisms to successfully promote greater commerce within and across the two regions. Each of these mechanisms has costs associated with them and different types of mechanisms can be programmed on the basis of their ease of implementation and impact potential. The material in this study is designed in such a way as to provide practical knowledge and methods for businesses to take advantage of Central and South Asia regional opportunities; analytical tools for policymakers and researchers; and policy and program recommendations for governments and development partners. It should be of interest to businesses, governments, international development partners, policymakers and researchers, and others concerned with Central and South Asia’s trade and the potential for developing value chains or so-called ‘trade in tasks’ across the two regions.

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