Financial Crisis Management in Regional Blocs

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'Pacific Alliance' Reaches Out To Other Regional Trade Blocs

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The UR agreements have, for the first time, brought agricultural trade under international discipline. Developed countries have made firm commitments to bring down the level of subsidies and give larger access to their markets. Also, some provisions have been made to help developing countries, especially the poor food-importing countries, during the transitional period, gradually adjusting their trade regimes to the changed economic environment.

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In the changed economic environment, WTO has acquired great importance. The developing countries have to be vigilant so that the concessions allowed them under the UR Agreements are not nullified for one reason or other. They also have to watch that the developed countries do not take away the gains of tariff liberalisation by imposing non-tariff barriers, or by bringing in extraneous matters such as environmental concerns or child labour, in trade negotiations. Only with collective bargaining can the developing countries of this region obtain fair conditions.

WTO is one forum in which the developing Asian countries have to take a united stand. There are other international organizations where these countries have to collectively watch out for their interest. Early warning systems Large parts of the Asian region are subject to floods and droughts, sometimes both.

CARICOM Trade Bloc 'In Crisis'

Volcanic eruptions, fire and frost are common occurrences in South Asia. There is a view that deforestation and extension of cultivation on marginal lands have increased the incidence of natural disasters.

Many of the countries of the region have perfected the art of coping with natural disasters to a great extent, but each country has to fend for itself, even when a calamity is spread over more than one country. The region will benefit from an early warning system that will forewarn the countries about the impending calamity. With modern advances in techniques and instruments of surveillance, this would be a manageable undertaking.

by Amanda Banks,, London

Conservation and proper utilisation of natural resources In resource-poor developing Asian countries, priority should be given to the efficient and sustainable use of natural resources. One of the most important areas for collaborative action from this perspective is the integrated use of the water of international rivers. In South Asia, as well as in Indochina, basins of major rivers straddle across national borders. Upper as well as lower riparian states can make best use of these waters in irrigation, hydro-power generation, navigation, fishery development, and for drinking purposes if they can agree on comprehensive planning of water resources in their common rivers.

The Indo-Pak treaty on the Sindh river system, mediated through the World Bank, provides an excellent example. Serious attempts are afoot to arrive at such understanding on the use of international rivers between India, Nepal and Bangladesh. An encouraging beginning has been made in the case of the waters of the river Ganga at Farraka. A few other similar projects on international rivers are in the offing.

It will need political sagacity and farsightedness on the part of all concerned to arrive at mutually acceptable solutions.

CARICOM Trade Bloc 'In Crisis'

Even if a comprehensive understanding on all aspects of river waters cannot be arrived at, a beginning can be made by exchanging information on vital aspects of rainfall, river flows, evapo-transpiration, ground water regimes etc. High level commissions on integrated water use have been or are being established in a number of developing Asian countries.

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  • There could be mutual consultation and exchange of information among these bodies right from the start. Pakistan has made significant advances in the use of water in agriculture while Sri Lanka has a fairly well developed system for plantation crops. Other countries have also specialised in some crops or resource use. All Asian countries can benefit from information exchange and collaboration in organising relevant research activities. In South Asia, as well as in Indochina, such collaboration has great potential because of the large, contiguous, agro-ecological tracks.

    Research findings applicable to one part could be of use to other parts. In South Asia, cropping patterns are dominated by rice and wheat for which generic research would be useful for large areas in different countries. It should be recalled that the Green Revolution came to this part of the world on the strength of adapting the results of the generic research conducted in different parts of the world, for wheat in Mexico and rice in Philippines.

    Some developing Asian countries - India in South Asia and Thailand and Malaysia in Southeast Asia, in particular - have made significant advances in frontier research in biotechnology, tissue culture, plant genetics etc.