SEOUL, November 9, 2010 - At a packed press conference today, Asia Society launched its Task Force report on Asian economic integration and global trade, ahead of the G-20 summit here later this week.
Titled Growing Together Beats Falling Apart: Making Asian Economic Integration Work for Asia, the United States, and the World, the 39-page report outlines some of the challenges facing the global—and particularly the Asian—economy now, and offers recommendations for ways forward.
The Asia Society Task Force spent a year researching and preparing the report, and its release is timely as world leaders responsible for over 90% of the world’s economic output gather in Seoul to try to reach agreement on several key issues that will affect future growth. The report launch was hosted by Asia Society Korea Center at the Lotte Hotel.
Project chair William R. Rhodes (President and CEO of William R. Rhodes Global, and Senior Advisor and Former Senior Vice Chairman of Citigroup) and project coordinator Jamie Metzl (Executive Vice President of Asia Society) flew to Seoul from the United States to address the assembled journalists and business leaders about the report and take questions. To highlight the intellectual weight behind this project and the support it enjoys in policy circles, Director of the U.S. National Economic Council and top advisor to President Obama on economic policies Dr. Lawrence Summers participated via live video conference from Washington, DC.
Summers spoke about the helpfulness of taking a long view of human history—and in that vein, declared that one of the single most important events of our time was the dramatic and unprecedented increase in living standards around the world, particularly in Asian countries, over the last 50 years. This makes Asia a crucial partner for America, Summers continued, underscoring the importance of a collaborative relationship that allows both regions to grow together.
Following Summers, Jamie Metzl emphasized that the report is intended to counter the nascent market protectionism, economic nationalism, and beggar-thy-neighbor policies in the world today. He summarized the report's key recommendations:
- All nations must remain committed to free trade in the context of a fair and rule-based international system and at the same time states must do more to counter the inevitable domestic dislocations caused by increased free trade;
- Bilateral trade agreements should not be made at the expense of broader multi-national agreements leading stead towards them;
- Monetary and fiscal policies must be better coordinated;
- More must be done to unlock the tremendous human potential of people in poverty without meaningful opportunities; and innovation—a long-term growth generator—must be encouraged and fostered.
William R. Rhodes elaborated on the theme of "growing together" by stating that he saw Asian economic integration as inevitable and imminent. To that end, he envisages some kind of Northeast Asian trading bloc forming within four years. Like Metzl, Rhodes laid stress on the danger of economic nationalism and protectionism stemming from the recent global financial crisis and recession. But he pointed out that as an optimist, he believes the crisis can lead to an opportunity to rebalance the world economically, politically and strategically.