Stronger regional cooperation strategies—including in health, trade, finance, and disaster risk—can help governments in Asia and the Pacific accelerate economic growth and a robust recovery from the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic, according to a new book released by the Asian Development Bank (ADB).
“Regional cooperation and integration have been an effective driver for strong economic growth and a sharp reduction in poverty,” said ADB Vice-President for Knowledge Management and Sustainable Development, Bambang Susantono.
“However, the COVID-19 pandemic is a wakeup call to all of us that our usual assumptions and approaches to regional cooperation and integration have to change in ways that promote resilience and sustainability.”
Mr Susantono highlighted the need for Asia and the Pacific to reassess its regional cooperation and integration strategies and pathways. “This new book, Future of Regional Cooperation in Asia and the Pacific, will provide insights and a foundation for deeper and more effective regional cooperation for a world reshaped by the pandemic.”
The book provides a critical examination of regional cooperation initiatives and explores opportunities for economies in the region to work together to recover and rebuild from the COVID-19 pandemic. It examines approaches to strengthen regional trade and investment; improve intraregional infrastructure and connectivity; reduce financial risk; coordinate health systems and approaches; and enhance coordination on cross-border issues such as climate change and ocean health.
Enhanced regional cooperation can, for example, help expand trade and investment by opening avenues and opportunities for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) to participate more actively in local and global supply chains through better transportation and connectivity. Innovative financing, which accepts collateral other than land, can empower women-led businesses, which currently suffer from approximately 2.5 times less access to credit than male-led businesses.
Regional cooperation and integration can positively influence public policy as well as drum up interest for public goods investment, such as in rail transportation, energy systems, and information and communications technology. Such investment can contribute significantly to sustainable and inclusive growth, the report notes. Regional cooperation can also be critical in strengthening financial stability and resilience by avoiding potential crises through efforts focused on liquidity provision, macroeconomic and financial surveillance, and regulatory oversight on growing cross-border banking activities.
Asia and the Pacific remains as a hotspot for emerging diseases, natural disasters, and climate hazards. To build resilience, the book recommends a range of multilateral interventions including strengthening national health systems to ensure regional health security; building the capacity of personal protective equipment producers; and providing knowledge support and financing for ocean health initiatives. The book also notes that regional cooperation on carbon markets would be instrumental for climate change mitigation.
Regional cooperation and integration are among the operational priorities in ADB’s Strategy 2030, and focuses on four pillars:
- infrastructure connectivity;
- regional public goods;
- regional trade and investment; and
- financial cooperation.
The Asian Development Bank is committed to achieving a prosperous, inclusive, resilient, and sustainable Asia and the Pacific, while sustaining its efforts to eradicate extreme poverty. Established in 1966, it is owned by 68 members—49 from the region.