Asian Regional Workshop on Free Trade Agreements: Towards inclusive Trade Policies in Post-Crisis Asia Organised by IDEAs; Good Governance for Social Development and the Environment Institute (GSEI); and International Institute for Trade and Development (ITD)

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The trend towards regional integration in Asia that began in the aftermath of the Asian financial crisis has gained greater momentum in the recent years. Until the proliferation of FTAs, regional integration in Asia was predominantly market-led because of the MNC-driven regional production networks in the manufacturing sector, and involved only the East and Southeast Asian countries. However, since the early part of this decade following the disappointments with multilateral trade negotiations at the WTO, Asian integration processes have been led by the market-friendly governments and domestic private sectors within the region, and driven by export market access benefits to be obtained through bilateral and regional FTAs, not just in manufacturing, but also in agriculture and services. The manner in which Asian regionalism driven by FTAs evolves and impacts the ways of production and financing in the agricultural, manufacturing and services sectors, has crucial implications for the lives of the billions of people in Asia (and elsewhere). So, how are the effects of these FTAs, which intensify the integration between various countries within and outside Asia in the productive, financial and service sectors, being felt at the country and local levels? After the global financial crisis and in the context of the ongoing global economic slowdown, it also becomes essential to understand whether the existing FTAs involving Asian economies have played any role in accentuating or attenuating the crisis and the recovery efforts. Further, after the visible collapse of market-led growth strategies globally, it becomes important to explore whether Asian regional integration can and should look beyond FTAs in order to promote more meaningful regional cooperation that enables these countries to follow inclusive and equitable development policies.

Against this backdrop, IDEAs organized an Asian Regional Workshop on Free Trade Agreements in Bangkok, in collaboration with GSEI and ITD. The workshop took stock of the post-crisis scenario in FTA negotiations in the Asian region, as governments continue to move ahead with negotiations at various levels.

The two-day workshop addressed the following broad themes:

  • Nature of the integration process underlying the FTAs and their implications for agricultural, industrial and service sector development in our countries at various levels;
  • Experiences of the FTAs that are already in existence and examine those which are under negotiation in the Asian region;
  • Impact of the multiple and overlapping agreements that our countries are entering into;
  • Role played by FTAs in the global food and financial crises; and
  • Alternative directions in regional integration in the current conjuncture.

The Workshop had participation from policy makers, civil society and the academia, apart from inter-governmental organizations such as the UNESCAP.


Tuesday, 8 December 2009

9.00 – 9.30


9.30 – 9.45

Introduction by C. P. Chandrasekhar, Jawaharlal Nehru University and IDEAs 

9.45 – 11.00

Session 1: China and Japan in the Changing Asian FTA Landscape 

Chair: Sompop Manarungsan, Chulalongkorn University

‘China’s Strategy for Free Trade Agreements: Political battle in the name of trade’, by Henry Gao, Singapore Management University.

Download: Paper

‘Japan’s FTA policy and movement of Japanese Companies towards the FTA era in East Asia’, by Seiya Sukegawa, Japan External Trade Organisation (JETRO).

Download: Presentation             

Discussant: Sakkarin Niyomsilpa, ITD

Questions and answers

11.00 – 11.15

Coffee Break

11.15 – 12.30

Session 2: Experiences of Asian FTAs in Progress – I 

Chair: Pasuk Phongpaichit, Chulalongkorn University and Chair, IDEAs

‘Japan-Philippines EPA within the ASEAN-Japan CEPA’, by Jose Enrique Africa, IBON Foundation.

Download: Presentation         Paper            

‘India-Sri Lanka Bilateral FTA: Sri Lankan perspective on the emerging issues’, by Saman Kelegama, Institute for Policy Studies in Sri Lanka.

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Discussant: Wisarn Pupphavesa, Thailand Development Research Institute

Questions and answers

12.30- 1.30


1.30 – 3.00

Session 3: Experiences of Asian FTAs in Progress -II 

Chair: Indra Lubis, La Via Campesina

‘Malaysian Strategy towards FTAs and the Implications’ by Charles Santiago, MP, Malaysia

‘The ASEAN-India FTA: Emerging issues in India’s changing trade policy strategy’, by Smitha Francis, IDEAs.

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Discussant: Somchai Ratanakomut, Chulalongkorn University and ITD

Questions and answers

3.00 – 3.30

Coffee break

3.30- 5.00

Session 4: Panel Discussion on ‘The Multiple Challenges in Asian FTAs’ 

Chair: Charles Santiago, MP, Malaysia

Speakers: Saman Kelegama, IPS; Mia Mikic, ESCAP (In absentia); Chackrit Duangphastra, DTN, Ministry of Commerce, Thailand

Download: Presentation of Mia Mikic

Open discussion

Wednesday, 9 December 2009 

9.30 – 11.30

Session 5: Investment Issues in Asian FTAs 

Chair: C. P. Chandrasekhar, Jawaharlal Nehru University and IDEAs

‘Investment Liberalisation under FTAs and Some Legal Issues in International Law’ by Lawan Thanadsillapakul, School of Law, Sukhothai Thammathirat Open University.

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‘Investment Issues in Indonesian FTAs’ by Daeng Salamuddin, Institute for Global Justice (IGJ).

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‘Intra-Regional Investment: The neglected aspect of ASEAN integration’, by Pavida Pananond, Thammasat University

Download: Presentation             Paper

Discussant: Chayodom Sabhasri, Chulalongkorn University

Questions and answers

11.30 – 11.45

Coffee break

11.45 – 1.00

Session 6: Sectoral Issues of Development Concern –I 

Chair: Jade Donavanik, Faculty of Law, Siam University

‘IPR Provisions in the EU-ASEAN FTA’, by Elpidio Peria, Third World Network.

Download : Presentation            

‘Impact of FTAs on Agriculture: Issues in Food Security and Livelihood’ by Sajin Prachason, Sustainable Agriculture Foundation (Thailand)/ FTA Watch

Download: Presentation             Paper

Discussant: Pawin Talerngsri, DTN, Ministry of Commerce, Thailand

Questions and answers

1.00- 2.00


2.00 – 3.15

Session 7: Sectoral Issues of Development Concern -II 

Chair: Kejpiroon Kate Kohsuwan, DTN, Ministry of Commerce, Thailand

‘EU Services Demands in FTAs’ by Shefali Sharma, Third World Network.

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‘Impact of Trade Liberalisation on Labour’, by Junya Yimprasert, Thai Labour Campaign

Download: Presentation         

Discussant: Soraphol Tulayasathien, Ministry of Finance, Thailand

Questions and answers

3.15 – 3.30

Coffee break

3.30- 5.00

Session 8: Panel Discussion on ‘Towards Inclusive Trade Policies in Post-crisis Asia’ 

Chair: Lawan Thanadsillapakul, Sukhothai Thammathirat Open University.

Speakers: Chanida Chanyapate Bamford, Focus on the Global South; Jayati Ghosh,Jawaharlal Nehru University and IDEAs; Indra Lubis, La Via Campesina.

Open discussion