Chapter 8: Regionalism, multilateralism and the World Trade Organization
It is implied from the preceding chapters that the ASEAN countries in negotiating with countries outside the region for freer trade and more secure market access have reinforced their bargaining position by negotiating as a group and taking a common position, rather than acting individually. They have also pursued a regional approach to trade liberalization. But it is quite clear from their policy announcements that they prefer a freer global trade to a freer regional trade and that the multilateral approach is the best tool for achieving a freer global trade. This chapter will explore the factors behind the worldwide revival of interest in regionalism, analyse the major achievements of the last round of multilateral trade negotiations and its implications for the ASEAN countries and the role and challenges facing the World Trade Organization (WTO). The last section considers the advantages and disadvantages of regionalism vis-à-vis multilateralism. 8.1 REASONS FOR THE REVIVAL OF REGIONALISM Created in Geneva on 30 October 1947 by 23 founding nations, the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT), now known as the World Trade Organization (WTO), membership increased to over 100 countries. As believers in an open market and fair competition secured through multilateral rules and discipline, the GATT members had over seven rounds of negotiations slashed average tariffs on manufactured goods from more than 40 percent in the 1940s to less than 5 percent today. The rounds were: the Geneva Round in 1947, the Annecy Round in 1949, the Torquay Round in 1950...
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