ADB Working Paper Series on Regional Economic Integration 102
In understanding the proliferation of free trade agreements (FTAs) in Asia since 2000, it is important to distinguish between two types of FTAs in terms of a legal basis on either General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) Article XXIV or the Enabling Clause. The latter provision can be used when an FTA involves only developing countries. While there are a total of 34 Enabling Clause-based FTAs in effect around the globe, more than half of them are located in Asia. Moreover, the way the Enabling Clause is used by developing countries in Asia is very different from other regions. Outside of Asia, the Enabling Clause is usually used to form a plurilateral FTA that has an accession clause, which envisages gradual evolution into a subregion-wide cooperative agreement. In contrast, in Asia, developing counties started to use the Enabling Clause to sign bilateral FTAs in 2000. Such an innovative way of using the Enabling Clause is one of the main contributors to the recent proliferation of FTAs in Asia. This paper also considers the implications of this proliferation in Asia on the openness of Asian regionalism.