The Boao Forum for Asia (BFA) released its first annual report, Economic Integration in Asia, on Friday afternoon, concluding that Asia has become an increasingly important player in the world economy, and that market forces are driving the region's economic integration.
"This report clearly shows the remarkable contribution Asia is making to global integration," Bert Hofman, chief economist from the World Bank's Beijing Office, said on behalf of Jemal-ud-din Kassum, East Asia and Pacific vice president of the World Bank.
"The fact that trade and investment are running ahead of formal agreements in this area is a tribute to the private sector as well as to organizations such as the BFA," he added.
The BFA, currently meeting in Boao on the island province of Hainan, produced the report through ongoing, close collaboration with the World Bank, BFA Secretary-General Long Yongtu said at a press conference held at its launch.
"Trade in the region appears to be growing more rapidly than that among partners in regional trade agreements," said Long, also noting that regional trade agreements seem to be more effective under a multilateral framework.
In the current context of economic globalization, foreign direct investment seems to have assumed a larger role in countries' development efforts. Now it's the turn of governments to support businesses in order to obtain the maximum benefits from this new opportunity, he said.
As a result of increasing market demand and active foreign trade investment, intra-regional trade has recorded marked rises, which in turn have given tremendous impetus to Asia's economic integration, Long said.
He said that considering the cultural diversity of Asia, there are political, religious and ideological obstacles to economic integration; communication and mutual understanding are the best way to overcome them, and the BFA, a leading forum in Asia for political, business and academic leaders to exchange views, has an important role to play in this.
This year's report identifies three factors driving trade integration in Asia: a change in trade profiles, broad based competitive gains and rapid growth of foreign direct investment.
The interdependence of China and other Asian economies has grown since the mid-1980s, when China emerged as a major partner in world trade, the report said.
Former Philippine President and BFA Chairman Fidel V. Ramos observed that the accompanying change in China's trade structure seems to provide a partial explanation for rapid expansion in East Asia's regional trade, and commented that "China's macroeconomic policies have an increasingly important implication for the region's economic outlook."
Long also announced that Thursday's BFA Board of Directors Meeting agreed to set up a research institute, aimed at improving administration and strengthening research into economics and related fields.
The institute is to establish close relations with international institutions on Asia's economic affairs, especially those from Asia, for the purpose of resource sharing, he said.
(China.org.cn by staff reporter Shao Da, April 23, 2005)