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Ganeshan Wignaraja, Peter J. Morgan, Michael G. Plummer and Fan Zhai

This chapter estimates the potential gains from South Asian–Southeast Asian economic integration using an advanced computable general equilibrium (CGE) model. It estimates the potential gains to be large, particularly for South Asia, assuming that the policy- and infrastructure-related variables that increase trade costs are reduced via economic cooperation and investment in connectivity. As Myanmar is a key inter-regional bridge and has recently launched ambitious, outward-oriented policy reforms, the prospects for making progress in these areas are strong. If the two regions succeed in dropping inter-regional tariffs, reducing non-tariff barriers by 50 percent, and decreasing South Asian–Southeast Asian trade costs by 15 percent – which this chapter suggests is ambitious but attainable – welfare in South Asia and Southeast Asia would rise by 8.9 percent and 6.4 percent of gross domestic product, respectively, by 2030 relative to the baseline. These gains would be driven by rising exports and competitiveness, particularly for South Asia, whose exports would rise by two-thirds (64 percent relative to the baseline). Hence, the chapter concludes that improvements in connectivity would justify a high level of investment. Moreover, it supports a two-track approach to integration in South Asia, that is, deepening intra-regional cooperation together with building links to Southeast Asia.