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Asia-Pacific Trade and Investment Report 2016

Recent Trends and Developments

image of Asia-Pacific Trade and Investment Report 2016

The Asia-Pacific Trade and Investment Report (APTIR) is a major annual publication of the Trade, Investment and Innovation Division of United Nations ESCAP. It aims to deepen understanding of trends and developments in trade and investment in the Asia-Pacific region; emerging issues in trade, investment and trade facilitation policies, and impacts of these policies on countries' abilities to meet the challenges of achieving inclusive and sustainable development. It offers innovative policy options to meet the challenges of achieving sustainable trade and investment. APTIR 2016 shows that 2015-2016 has been a worrying period for trade and investment n the Asia-Pacific region and worldwide, and there are few signs that the current economic and trade slowdown is simply a temporary phenomenon. Instead, this pattern may be the result of a change in the fundamental structure of world trade, which might lead to a persistent trade stagnation. On the other hand, good progress was made, especially at the regional level, with furthering cross-border paperless trade as one of the approached to deal with the upward pressure on the trade costs. Special feature of this volume is a chapter on digital trade in Asia-Pacific. Accepting the rising importance of e-commerce as a new trade platform, there is opening for the possible changes in the focus of trade and investment policies in order to leverage the potential of e-commerce to support intraregional trade.

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Regional trends in trade policies: Building taller fences?

Changes in trade policies tend to mirror the overall tone and tenor of globalization. The rhetoric of protectionism that is gaining popularity among G20 economies, together with events such as “Brexit”, does not bode well for the efforts towards reviving trade growth. This general “inward looking” mood in politics is also evident in the recent trends in trade policies, which is tilting towards increased restrictiveness. Liberalization efforts are increasingly limited to the “like-minded’’ countries and, de facto, discriminate against all others, as in some recent attempts to create mega-regional trade agreements.1 However, since there is still considerable public resentment and angst regarding these agreements, it is possible that such efforts will be put on hold for some time. More importantly, an increasing protectionist stand does not resonate well with the universally accepted 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, in which trade is seen as an important means of implementation.

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