Trade Policy In Southeast Asia

Politics, Domestic Interests and the Forging of New Accommodations in the Regional and Global Economy

Authored by: Helen E.S. Nesadurai

Routledge Handbook of Southeast Asian Politics

Print publication date:  December  2011
Online publication date:  March  2012

Print ISBN: 9780415494274
eBook ISBN: 9780203155011
Adobe ISBN: 9781136579196


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Despite the importance of foreign trade to the growth performance of Southeast Asian countries, trade policy in the region has displayed a high degree of ambivalence between openness and protectionism even from the mid-1980s when most Southeast Asian governments embarked on what had then seemed a decisive shift towards economic openness. In fact, there appears to be some sort of dynamic equilibrium between trade liberalization and trade protectionism. This puzzle is part of broader political economy debates that query why reformers across much of Southeast Asia have found it difficult to overturn interventionist economic and trade policies, as well as the patronage-based networks so prevalent in the region, in favour of market-based economic systems and liberal trade policies. This chapter addresses this debate by examining two interlinked dimensions of trade policy: (a) the trade orientation of the national economy, or the degree to which the economy is formally open to exports and imports of goods and services as well as to investment given the close links between investment and trade; and (b) the institutional forms through which trade cooperation with other countries is conducted, whether through multilateral, regional or bilateral arrangements.

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