Asia's Unusual Engagment with FTAs: Regional Preferences in Historical Context

Dr Alisa DiCaprio, United Nations University, Finland

10.May.2010 17.00 - 18.30
Room G.03, 20 Cromer Terrace - Leeds


Alisa DiCaprio is a Research Fellow at United Nations University's World Institute for Development Economics Research (UNU-WIDER). A graduate in international development from MIT, her recent research focuses on social protection, international trade institutions and industrial policy. Previously, she was a fellow at New York University and a trade specialist with the U.S. Department of Commerce. She has also worked with organized labour groups in Cambodia.


While free trade agreements (FTAs) have been popular since the 1980s, in Asia there was not a single WTO-compliant FTA until 2001. But since that turning point, all of the countries in Asia have vigorously pursued FTAs and developed a design that is adapted to regional preferences. This seems to indicate the unlikely outcome that a set of countries that has historically not functioned as a single entity had fashioned a coordinated policy response to this trade policy instrument. Instead, in this paper I suggest that the response was historically rooted in the institutions that were common to the formation of trade policy in many of today's geographic regions. Specifically, I show that in the post-colonial period, certain institutions that defined regions throughout the world performed differently only in Asia. This resulted in the creation of a set of preferences common only to states in Asia, and which delayed the adoption of FTAs.