ADBI series on Asian Economic Integration and Cooperation
Edited by Douglas H. Brooks and Susan F. Stone
Chapter 5: Transport Infrastructure and Trade Facilitation in the Greater Mekong Subregion
Susan Stone and Anna Strutt INTRODUCTION 5.1 The rise in international trade in the world economy is a well-documented phenomenon, with total exports of goods and services rising from 13 percent of world gross domestic product (GDP) in 1970 to 27 percent by 2005 (World Bank 2008b). Successive rounds of trade liberalization under first the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT), then the World Trade Organization (WTO), have led to deeper and broader tariff reductions. However, as tariff reduction and reform have entered increasingly sensitive areas, leading to more protracted and contentious negotiations, attention has turned to reform in the rules of trade. Harmonization and simplification became recognized as sources of potential gains even as tariff reductions stalled. Indeed, recent studies have postulated that the potential gains from reforms in expanded access or trade facilitation may be even greater than those from tariff reduction (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, OECD 2003). This move toward greater emphasis on process was demonstrated through the inclusion of trade facilitation to the Doha Round negotiations. These negotiations did not attempt to target the entire logistical supply chain but rather focused on how nations control the way in which goods move across their borders through various inspection and approval stages. Improving existing rules, providing less-developed countries with technical assistance and support, and improving coordination between customs authorities were identified as priority areas in these negotiations. With further multilateral tariff reductions at a standstill, firms’ access to international markets depends more and more on...
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