TRENDS IN SOUTH-SOUTH TRADE ACTIVITIES OF EAST ASIA PACIFIC AND SOUTH ASIA
Keywordsdeveloping Asia, South-South trade, East Asia and Pacific, South Asia
The aim of this article is to analyse trends in trade throughout the global South, focusing on two regions of Asia: East Asia and Pacific, and South Asia. Unlike many recent texts which tend to focus on the activities of China and India, and their consequences for the developed economies (mainly US and Europe), this article aims to identify trends in trade between developing countries, with a special emphasis on non-Chinese and non-Indian actors.
In attempting to measure the Asian developing regions’ engagement in the economic cooperation across the global South over the period of 2000–2019, an emphasis is placed on relative data (South-South trade as a percentage of total imports/exports), as opposed to absolute data (trade volumes for exports/imports in USD). This allows us to identify and compare trends in engagement for each individual actor regardless of their economic power. Important changes in the character of goods traded (i.e. leading import/export categories) can also be seen over the whole 20-year period.
While the participation of East Asia Pacific and South Asia in South-South trade undoubtedly grew after 2000, largely due to impressive performances of China and India. However, the economic might of these giants should not overshadow the performances of their smaller counterparts, who also play an integral role in setting the trends this article hopes to identify. In fact, in some particular years, the group of non-Chinese economies of East Asia Pacific, and the group of non-Indian countries of South Asia, outperformed both China, and India, when South-South trade was measured as a percentage of their total imports and exports.
Intraregional trade became the dominant component of East Asia Pacific trade over the 20-year period. This was not the case for South Asia, which might be seen as an obstacle for future development.
The positive experience of these two regions might be used as a blueprint to extend networks of trading relationships across the global South through which new value chains can be created. While this might be seen as somewhat controversial from a Northern perspective, it would inevitably lead to strengthening political relationships between developing regions, helping to balance the global economy, and provide opportunities for Southern-led capital flows to Africa, the Middle East, and Latin America and the Caribbean.
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