Asian economic integration centers on China
Asian regional economic integration shifted to center on China in 2017, based on previous arduous efforts and strong support from other Asian countries, according to a report on Asian competitiveness released by the Boao Forum for Asia (BFA) on Sunday.
As the largest economy in Asia, China has made active efforts to propel Asian economic integration, Lin Guijun, vice president of the Beijing-based University of International Business and Economics and also one of the writers of the report, told the Global Times on the sidelines of the forum, which is being held in South China's Hainan Province.
As a resource that has propelled the robust development of Asian regional economic integration in recent years, the China-proposed Belt and Road (B&R) initiative has fully displayed China's wisdom and planning.
The B&R initiative is helping to form a pan Euro-Asia group as it gathers lots of crucial trade partners and is expanding international market increments, Lin said.
In 2017, the development dividends as projected by the B&R initiative started to bear fruit, benefiting the countries and regions along the routes. Chinese enterprises have established 56 economic and trade cooperation zones in more than 20 countries, creating $1.1 billion of tariff revenue and 180,000 jobs for these countries.
In 2018, China will push forward 10 free trade agreement (FTA) negotiations, kick off 10 FTA feasibility studies and will ensure the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) negotiations will achieve substantial progress.
China remains ninth in terms of comprehensive competitiveness among 37 Asian economies in 2017, while its economic vitality is in a leading position in Asia, said the report.
Asian economies continue to lead global growth in 2017, but the region's trade, as well as financial markets, still face challenges due to rising protectionism and uncertainties, according to a report on the progress of Asian economic integration also released on Sunday by the BFA.
"Asia's trade growth saw modest signs of improvement year-on-year in 2017, but it is far away from its previous golden era. Asian countries' trade interdependence is still seeing a declining trend amid rising global trade protectionism and uncertainties in the global value chain," Lin said at the forum.
The region's trade self-reliance continued to decline in 2016, with the dependency index dropping to 50.74 percent from 51.48 percent in 2015, said the report.
With complicated uncertainties in the region and the world, almost all major Asian economies except South Korea, India, Singapore, Malaysia and the US had reduced their trade dependence on Asia in 2016, it continued.
Besides, the region's financial markets also encountered huge challenges, with Asia's financial integration continuing to stagnate, according to the report.
There was a trend of capital flight in 2016 due to uncertainty over Asia's future growth and higher economic and political risks, it noted, adding that the 10 largest Asian economies saw $689 billion in capital outflows, an obvious contrast to inflows of $570 billion.
Against this backdrop, experts called for coordinated efforts by Asian economies to cope with protectionist pressures from Western countries and to bolster faster economic growth in Asia.
Zhou Wenzhong, secretary-general of the BFA, was quoted as saying in the second report that Asia should work collectively to develop a common approach to external pressures both on the macroeconomic side and in trade to reverse the trend of "flight to safety" and to resist protectionist pressures from Western developed countries.
Asia should also work out clear policies to deal with structural changes to the global value chain, innovative ways to grow, and should spare no efforts to deepen the financial reforms of individual economies in a coordinated manner, Zhou noted.
"Asian economies should firmly complete RCEP negotiations to a high standard to reverse the anti-globalization trend and boost development of Asian economy and trade," Lin said.