Regional integration meeting in East and North-East Asia urges the development of clear goals and indicators

Participants and staff of ENEA Office of ESCAP pose during the Expert Group Meeting on Regional Indicators for Monitoring Regional Cooperation and Integration in East and North-East Asia at I-Tower, Incheon, Republic of Korea.
Participants and staff of ENEA Office of ESCAP pose during the Expert Group Meeting on Regional Indicators for Monitoring Regional Cooperation and Integration in East and North-East Asia at I-Tower, Incheon, Republic of Korea.

Academia, intergovernmental and international organizations gathered in Incheon, Republic of Korea last week, for an expert group meeting on monitoring regional cooperation and integration in East and North-east.

Organized by the East and North-East Asia (ENEA) Office of the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP), the two-day meeting aimed to achieve three goals: defining integration, examining the system of regional integration indicators and building an index based on these indicators for measuring and monitoring regional integration.

With the slowdown of economic growth in major trading partners, the six regional economies, namely China, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Japan, Mongolia, Republic of Korea and the Russian Federation, are facing an increasingly challenging external environment. According to ESCAP, regional integration can be a key part of the solution in many ways.

“This meeting is meaningful in several ways in that for the first time participants are looking at regional integration at a subregional level from the angle of social, economic and environmental pillars. It is a direct response to the outcome of Rio+20,” said Dr. Kilaparti Ramakrishna, director of ENEA Office.

Issues and challenges of intraregional trade, energy, foreign direct investment, marine and air transportation networks, nature conservation in transboundary areas, cultural exchanges and social protection policies were amongst topics discussed.

The conventional understanding of regional integration has seen the wide use of macroeconomic indicators to measure the scope and depth of regional integration. According to Professor Tagir Khuziayatov at the Department of International Economics of Far Eastern Federal University, the economic dimension of integration is already very well developed.

However, looking at state agencies, institutional bodies, as well as the psychological aspects of integration, along with its perceived advantages and disadvantages amongst the population are equally important factors. It was noted that the ENEA region particularly lacked coordination and orchestration which hamper effective intra-regional (business) cooperation. In this sense, a joint regional think tank or mechanism such as the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) could provide potential avenues for increased regional integration.

Although the environmental and social integration have recently started to receive attention in the regional integration compared with the economic integration, they are all intertwined with spillover effects.

When discussing social integration in migration trends and policies in the subregion, Dr. Yasushi Igochi of Kwansei Gakuin University said, “The success of social integration policy for migrants can be an important basis for overcoming political tensions and military confrontations in this region.”

Connecting the environmental issues with regional integration, Dr. Jang-Min Chu of Korea Environment Institute highlighted three major areas: subregional environmental governance, spillover effects of environmental problems beyond national territory, and interdependence between countries on the use of environmental resources.

He also noted that regional governance has been a “crucial weakness” in promoting integration in Northeast Asia. The trilateral cooperation among China, Japan and the Republic of Korea can play a vital role in creating a joint management of the integration grouping in Northeast Asia, possibly extending to East Asia at large.

The meeting concluded, in order to accomplish result-based integration in Northeast Asia, developing clear goals, indicators and evaluation mechanisms are as important as creating a sense of community in the region and brining in diverse stakeholders, not only governments, but also civil society and private sectors.

For further information, contact:

Mr. Ka-Fa WONG, UN ESCAP Subregional Office for East and North-East Asia (SRO-ENEA)
Tel: +82-32-458-6620; Fax: +82-32-458-6699