The Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) constitutes a widest regional bloc, with 48 member countries and 10 associate members, having a geographical coverage from Azerbaijan in the West to the Cook Islands in the East and from Mongolia in North to Australia and New Zealand in the South. Besides, 5 non-regional countries, viz. France, Netherlands, Russian Federation, the UK and the USA are also its members on the basis of a historical legacy.
The ESCAP is meant to provide a beacon light to the developing world.
The structure of the ESCAP was revised at the 48lh Session held in Beijing in April 1992. The 50 the session of the ESCAP was hosted by India during 5-13 April 1994.
Infrastructure development was the main theme of this session. Several thematic Committees were to discuss the issues such as regional economic cooperation, environmental and sustainable development, poverty alleviation through economic growth and social development, transport and communication needs and the special requirements of the least developed and land-locked developing countries.
The ESCAP region is sub-divided into: (i) Pacific Island Countries, (ii) the developing ESCAP countries; (iii) ASEAH-4 countries; (iv) the developed ESCAP countries; (v) China and the newly industrialising economies; and (vi) South Asian Countries (including Bangladesh, India, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka).
India is a founding member of the Economic Commission for Asia and the Far East (ESCAFE) which was subsequently renamed as the ESCAP.
The ESCAP is the regional arm of the UNO in promoting economic and social development of the region.
The Economic and Social Commission for Asian and the Pacific (ESCAP) has promoted regional cooperation in a significant way. It has helped in creating an integrated communications infrastructure in the Asian region. For facilitating the transfer of technology it has established the Asian and Pacific Centre for the Transfer of Technology.
It worked for reducing the tariff barriers and promote free trade among the Asian countries. Under the fast developing multipolar global economy ESCAP is going to assume increasing importance as a regional centre of growth.
Promotion of intra-regional trade and investment, transfer of technology, privatisation, urbanisation, poverty alleviation, social and cultural development constitute new challenges to be faced by the ESCAP during the 1990s. In its golden jubilee session at New Delhi in April 1994, regional economic cooperation, environment, sustainable development, poverty alleviation, etc., were the major working themes of discussion and resolutions.
The Asia Pacific region is considered to be the main growth machine of the world economy in the forthcoming century. A special emphasise is put on infrastrucutre development as a key to economic growth and regional economic cooperation in the New Delhi Declaration of Action Plan for collective efforts to ensure economic growth and social development of the Asia-Pacific region.
The Action Plan on infrastructure development contained the following main proposals/ recommendations for the necessary action at the country level.
1. Upgrading information and reform of the administration of infrastructure facilities.
2. Modification of consumption pattern.
3. Effective planning, prioritization and investment infrastructure projects.
4. Participation of the private sector.
5. Mobilisation and allocation of public sector resources.
6. Human Resource Development (HRD) to be integrated into the infrastructure development process.
7. Poverty alleviation.
Similarly the action plan at regional levels include:
This is expected to service as a blue print for regional cooperation and growth strategy for the Group in the coming year. The member countries including India of the ESCAP would have to invest in people for their health, education and social upliftment besides huge investment for infrastructural development.
8. Gulf Co-operation Council (GCC) :
The GCC represents an economic integration among Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) in the middle east. It was basically formed for the political and strategic reasons. Since these countries have limited economic base, gains from trade creation activity is limited in scope.
9. The European Economic Area :
The European Economic Area (EE A) came into existence on the New Year day of 1994. It is the largest economic to block ranging from the Article to the Medite- rranean capturing the marled constituting 372 million people. It is a furtherance of European integration with the EFTA countries seeking close trading like with the EU. Austria, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden, among the EFTA numbers have joined the EEA.
Two EFTA members Liechtenstein and Switzerland, however, did not join the group.
10. The Council for Mutual Economic Assistance :
This was an economic integration of the communist bloc countries comprising former Soviet Union, six communist countries of Eastern Europe (excluding Albania and Yugoslavia), Cuba, Mangolia and Vietnam. It was known by the initials MEA or COMECON. The trade in this bloc was not based on the principle of comparative advantage for the obvious reason of planned economic behaviour and controlled price strategies followed by the command economies in the group.
With the collapse of the command economies and communism, the COMECON had its natural death by January 1991.
11. North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) :
It is extension of the Canada-US Trade Agreement (CUSTA) framework. Negotiations about it began in 1991 for the creation of a market of 364 million people. It is a series of bilateral agreements between America, Canada and Mexico. NAFTA commenced from January 1994.
Under the NAFTA provisions, all tariffs and quotas as manufactured and agricultural goods are to be eliminated within 5 to 15 years of transitional period. Restrictions on direct foreign investment between the NAFTA members will be lifted. Intellectual Property Rights (IRPs) are to be protected in the member countries. Mexico is to open up for the entry of US financial services in the country. Chile and other Latin American countries have great hopes in joining the NAFTA in furture.
12. Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) :
The origin of ASEAN lies in Association of Southeast Asia (ASA) proposed by Malayan Prime Minister Tunku Abdul Rahman in 1959. The ASA was short-lived because of territorial and political disputes among the member countries. Concrete efforts for regional economic cooperation were further revived by the ASEAN Declaration of 8th August, 1967 which states that one of the aims of ASEAN is: “to accelerate economic growth in the region through joint endeavours in the spirit of equality and partnership in order to strengthen the foundation for a prosperous and peaceful community of Southeast Asian nations.”
The ASEAN includes Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and since mid-1995, Vietnam. In 1997 the group was extended to include Mynmar and the inclusion of Combodia as its member is still pending.
The ASEAN land area and population are larger than the 15-nation European Union. It represents the most longstanding and successful regional grouping for economic integration and peaceful coexistence. The recent move of ASEAN Free Trade Area (AFTA) and ASEAN Regional Forum has shown its zeal towards global integration.
Especially, the process of reform and economic development in eighties and nineties in the ASEAN economies has facilitated the integration of their economies in the global set-up. Outward- looking growth strategies based on foreign direct investment (FDI) has helped their fast progress and prosperity.
Narrates trade ratios, (i.e., the sum of merchandise exports and imports as a ratio c GNP for the ASEAN in 1965-1994. It shows an increasing trend.
In fact, foreign trade is the life-blood of the ASEAN economies – both as a “Rent for surplus” and as a “source of need.” The macroeconomic balancing and market-driven trade sectors are ASEAN’s windows to the global economy. Containment of inflation and sustained higher growth rates are regarded as important parameters to economic prosperity and integration of the ASEAN economies.
Sketches ASEAN institutional structure. Chart 32.2 pin-points subsidiary bodies of] the ASEAN committees.
The ASEAN summit is the highest forum for ASEAN cooperation. Its meetings are held once every three years. Last summit was held in Bangkok in December 1995. Next one is scheduled in 1998 to he held in Vietnam.
The ASEAN Ministerial Meeting (AMN) is the next highest decision-making body.
Chart 32.4 describes the structure of ASEAN secretariat.
Concluding Remarks :
The ASEAN group has undergone a long transition period of accumulation which has sewed as a pathway to economic transformation and progress. The Bangkok summit Declaration has aspired new vistas and hopes. Market forces has played a contributory role in promoting ASEAN economic cooperation. SAARC must learn this lesson from the ASEAN experience.
The ASEAN by and large encourages global approaches to international economic issues and problems. It has sewed complementary rather than contradictory to globalisation process towards new century