Asian economies can benefit from greater intraregional trade says top UN official

25 October 2009The top United Nations official in Asia and the Pacific today highlighted the opportunities to promote trade and investment among countries in the region, while presenting a new development plan less dependent on exports to the West. “The economic crisis has exposed the limitations of a ‘manufactured in Asia – consumed in the West’ model for economic growth,” said Noeleen Heyzer, Executive Secretary of the Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP).Speaking at the Fourth East Asia Summit, taking place in Cha-am Hua Hin, Thailand, Ms. Heyzer added that there are “enormous” opportunities to promote trade and investment within East Asia.“I believe that a more coordinated and connected Asia will emerge from the current crisis a global leader in development,” she told the gathering, while renewing the UN’s commitment to promote inclusive and sustainable development in the region.Ms. Heyzer noted that the UN is promoting connectivity in the Asia-Pacific region through a five-pronged approach that encompassed improved transport routes, a “paperless trading system,” investment within the region, energy security and social protection.“The UN’s work on the Asia Pacific Trade Agreement as well as the Asian Highway and Trans-Asian Railway are cornerstones of this strategy,” she said, referring to the eventual 114,000 kilometres of railway that will link countries from Singapore to Turkey and 142,000 kilometre road network connecting 32 Asian countries with Europe.The world body is also promoting a regional framework that will shift development in the region to a low-carbon path. “It will connect producers and consumers of energy resources and facilitate new markets for clean and efficient energy technologies,” said Ms. Heyzer.Social protection systems are also important, she added, noting that “providing minimum wage and unemployment insurance will buffer people from financial uncertainties and help drive economic recovery.” This is the first time that a UN official has been invited to address the summit, which brings together the leaders of the 10 members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and Australia, China, India, Japan, Republic of Korea and New Zealand. read more