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Project: Regional Trade Policy

Regional Trade Policy

With the Doha Round getting delayed at the multilateral level and bilateral free trade agreements generating marginal gains for the private sector, minilateral arrangements such as the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC), the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC), the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) and the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) are picking up steam as a next generation of trade liberalisation processes. In the Asian context, minilateral relationships are more appealing as they involve a small number of countries. Therefore, they are easy to negotiate and may ensure flexibility towards domestic interests.

The RES trade policy project runs parallel to that of the ASEAN Studies Centre and Singapore APEC Study Centre at ISEAS. The project studies regional trade agreements and provides analytical insights for students, academics, policy makers, the private sector and other key stakeholders.


Areas of Interest


The ASEAN Economic Community (AEC)

ASEAN has been focusing on deepening economic integration among its ten member economies for the last two decades. In October 2003, the ASEAN Leaders signed the Declaration of ASEAN Concord II (Bali Concord II) aimed at forming an ASEAN Economic Community (AEC). The AEC was borne out of the shared vision of ASEAN to create a stable, prosperous and highly competitive ASEAN economic region where there is a free flow of goods, services, investment and a freer flow of capital, equitable economic development and reduced poverty and socio-economic disparities in the year 2020.

Current Projects under AEC:

Vision Paper on the AEC Beyond 2015

The AEC was an ambitious project. While much has been achieved, more needs to be done by each of the economies. As 2015 approaches, there is growing discussion on the future of AEC. The region is also facing new challenges from the global economy. It is against the above background that the High Level Task Force on ASEAN Economic Integration (HLTF-EI) tasked the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies (RSIS) and the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies (ISEAS) to prepare a Vision Paper on the AEC beyond 2015. The two institutions presented a non-paper at the HLTF-EI meeting held in Singapore in July 2013 which, among other things, proposed a methodology to be used in preparing the paper and identified various areas to be covered. The Vision Paper has been submitted in November 2013. A presentation to the HLTF by the two institutions is scheduled in the first quarter of 2014.

Political Economy of the ASEAN Economic Community

The AEC, a form of New Regionalism, has both economic and political underpinnings. While the AEC will bring in the economies of scale for the investors, it will also help the smaller member economies to strengthen their voice in the international community. With economic cohesion, it will help the region to play a central role in the bigger Asian regional community. This cross-cutting issue of economics and politics with regard to the AEC will be covered in ISEAS’ Journal of Southeast Asian Economies. This special issue will be published in August 2015, a few months before the deadline of 31st December 2015.


Research Products on AEC:


Achieving The ASEAN Economic Community 2015: Challenges for Member Countries & Businesses


Enhancing ASEAN's Connectivity


ASEAN Economic Community Scorecard:
Performance & Perception


The ASEAN Economic Community:
A Work In Progress


ASEAN Economic Bulletin Vol 24/1 (Apr 2007): Bridging the ASEAN Developmental Divide: Challenges and Prospects


The Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) and The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP)

ASEAN adopted the RCEP Framework in November 2011. This will join the ten ASEAN members with six nations – Australia, China, India, Japan, Republic of Korea and New Zealand – that have currently five separate FTAs with ASEAN as a whole. Leaders of the sixteen countries have endorsed the Guiding Principles, which stipulate that RCEP will be a modern, comprehensive, high-quality and mutually beneficial FTA. The RCEP negotiations started in May 2013 in Brunei and is likely to be completed by the end of 2015. At the same time in 2011, the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) also launched its negotiations. Currently, the group has 12 members - Brunei, Chile, New Zealand, Singapore, Australia, Malaysia, Peru, the United States, Vietnam, Canada, Mexico and Japan. Negotiators envision the TPP to be a ‘comprehensive and high-quality’ FTA that aims to liberalise trade in goods and services, encourage investment, promote innovation, economic growth and development, and support job creation and retention.

Current Projects under the RCEP and TPP:

High-Level Workshop on RCEP and TPP

ISEAS convened a High-Level Workshop on “Understanding RCEP and TPP Agreements” on 25 October 2013. It covered three key areas – a) The state of RCEP and TPP Agreements; b) the economic and strategic rationale of RCEP and TPP; c) engaging the private sector in RCEP and TPP agreements. The High-Level Workshop was a closed-door event, attended by government senior officials, private business, and academia. A short manuscript based on the above and other research activities is expected to be out by mid-2014.


Research Products on RCEP and TPP (published as ISEAS Perspective pieces):


The Country Studies Program

Past Projects Under the Country Studies Program:

  • ASEAN Economic Bulletin Vol 26/1 (Apr 2009):
    Special Focus on "Vietnam: Coping with Domestic and External Challenges"

  • Road to Recovery: Singapore's Journey through the Global Crisis

For further information on this research project, please contact Sanchita Basu Das: sanchita@iseas.edu.sg