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UPDATED: April 23, 2007 NO.16 APR.19, 2007
Spinning the Wheels of Economic Integration
During these years, Asian countries have undergone accelerated economic growth, and economic cooperation has become widespread

Stressing sustainable development

Asian economies are in different developing phases, with many featuring developing industry. To these countries, equal attention should be paid to environmental protection as is paid to economic development. Asian countries should stick to the path of sustainable development.

While developing industrial production, Asian countries should attach importance to environmental issues, including global warming, air and soil pollution, water and food safety, and public sanitation. Meanwhile, energy cooperation should be strengthened. The Asian economy is developing rapidly along with the demand for energy. International energy organizations estimate that East Asia's demand for energy in 2020 will be 3.2 times that in 1997, and East Asian dependence on imported oil will ascend to 80 percent by 2020, up from 60 percent in 1997. By then, East Asian countries will all be oil net importers. Therefore, Asian countries should increase their oil reserves, ensure the safety of seaways for oil transportation, strengthen technological cooperation, exploit new and alternative energy, and put more efforts on energy saving.

Asian countries should also emphasize technological innovation and lay solid foundations for hi-tech development. Technological research and development, production and sales should be organized to form a pan-Asia industrial or enterprise network consisting of Asia's new industrial segments. Inter-regional technological transfer should be promoted; industrial standards and authentication should be acknowledged mutually; and industrial specifications, information communication standards and intellectual property rights protection policy should be unified.

It is essential for Asia to achieve healthy development of its regional cooperation and free flow of human resources. Developed countries and regions should open their labor markets. Asia should also build its capital market and financial center in an effort to gradually unify its capital and financial market systems, and realize investment liberalization within the region.

Along with the healthy development of Asian integration is a general trend to establish a uniform currency. But, before a standard currency comes into being, we should support the Asian Currency Unit proposed by the Asian Development Bank in June 2006, as a transition toward this future.

Taking one step at a time

With the development of inter-regional trade and the increased exchange of human resources, Asian people's minds have also changed. This is the great momentum of regional cooperation. However, Asia's diversity determines that regional cooperation should not proceed hastily, but instead must go forth gradually.

During this cooperation, interests of all involved parties should be taken into account. Discussions and exchanges among governments, non-governmental organizations and academic fields should be deepened.

The current mechanism should be brought into full play and all kinds of projects should be implemented so that the Asian people can witness the benefits as soon as possible. The gaps among Asian countries can be narrowed, laying a solid base for regional cooperation.

During the past several years, Asian economic integration has made remarkable achievements through the joint efforts of Asian countries. The Asian people are confident in the future of their common continent.

The author is a professor and director of the Department of Asian and African Studies under the Chinese Academy of International Trade and Economic Cooperation, a think tank of the Ministry of Commerce

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