Asian countries can unite against protectionism through Boao Forum

By Shu Meng & Wu Shicun

The Boao Forum for Asia (BFA) annual conference 2013 closes Monday. The theme of this year's BFA is "Asia Seeking Development for All: Restructuring, Responsibility and Cooperation." Given that economic recovery was not steady in 2012 and the outlook in 2013 is still not optimistic, all Asian countries have to search for common interests, transcend differences and seek common development. 


There are already several trans-regional economic organizations in Asia which can provide platforms for countries to seek cooperation, including the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) and Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPP). 


The US engages in Asia's regional affairs and weakens Asian regionalism's tendency to push aside the US through APEC. As for TPP, besides sharing the bonus brought by Asia's rapid economic development, a more important purpose for the US to promote it is that the TPP will help the US to grasp the initiative in Asia-Pacific regional integration. 


For a long time, the Asian region lacked a forum or an organization that was really led by Asia and that stems from the interests of Asians, until the BFA filled this gap.


Asia is facing historic opportunity. Peace and development are still the theme of the times. The pursuit of peace, stability, development and cooperation is the common aspiration of Asian people from different countries. Economic globalization is further developing and economic restructuring has achieved initial success in many Asian countries. 


Due to the accelerated pace of industrial optimization and technological improvement, Asian countries have gained powerful momentum. In the process of regional integration, Asian countries are increasingly interdependent. Dialogue and coordination among Asian countries have been enhanced and their capacity to resist risks has also been improved. 


All these have laid a solid foundation and created good conditions for Asian peace, stability, development and cooperation. 


However, we should also notice that there are still many problems and difficulties that stand in the way of regional cooperation. 


Historical disputes and practical contradictions undermine mutual trust among Asian countries. Given the US pivot to Asia, the escalation of territorial disputes within the region and the rise of global trade protectionism, Asian countries face an arduous task in maintaining regional peace and stability and pursuing common prosperity. 


Asia's total trade accounts for one-third of the world's total. Economic interdependence among Asian countries is very high. Therefore, Asian countries have common interests in resisting trade protectionism and promoting the free running of the global market. 


After the international financial crisis in 2008, many economies, such as the US and EU, tried to protect their domestic enterprises, reduce pressure and increase employment opportunities by methods such as collecting anti-dumping duties and countervailing duties. 


Major economies in Asia, such as Japan, South Korea and China all have an export-oriented economic model. Asian countries' reliance on US and EU markets is the vulnerable point of their economic development. Therefore, Asian countries should join together to resist increasing trade barriers set by the US and EU, and jointly look for international judicial methods to prevent protectionism from further developing.


We should reduce Asian countries' reliance on US and EU markets by increasing intra-regional economic and trade exchanges. 


US and EU protectionism is having a huge negative impact on the economic recovery in Asia. In this case, market liquidity is important inside the region. We should promote intra-regional trade to replace inter-regional trade to maintain rapid development of regional economy. 


Indeed, territorial disputes exist between some Asian countries. But meanwhile, we are facing common challenges. To transcend disputes and achieve joint development, Asian countries should have mutual respect for each other's sovereign rights and prevent trade protectionism led by domestic nationalist sentiment. 


All of us have the responsibility of maintaining regional peace and stability and easing regional tensions caused by traditional security threats, in order to create a favorable external environment for free trade among Asian countries. This is also the spiritual message of the BFA.


The Global Times