International trade and foreign investment have been key engines of growth and development in Asia and the Pacific, and the role of trade in contributing to sustainable development is well recognized in the 2030 Agenda. However, the multilateral trading system has faced significant challenges over the years and during the COVID-19 pandemic, and progress has been slow in reforming and updating it to meet present and future demands. Meanwhile, regional cooperation, such as in trade and investment agreements, have increasingly stepped up to address sustainable development issues of concern to countries, including in the social and environmental domains.
This paper examines such regional cooperation and integration in Asia-Pacific and how it can support the shaping or building up of a sustainable development-oriented multilateral trading system. It recognizes the importance of regional initiatives as building blocks of a revitalized and more networked multilateral trading system, and discusses policy considerations in a number of priority areas for furthering inclusivity and sustainability in regional trade and investment integration.