Over the last decade or so, free trade and investment agreements have been central instruments in Asia's quest to continue on and sustain the path to development and progress. In the Asia-Pacific region alone, the number of bilateral FTAs over the past decade increased more than 500 %, from 26 in 2000 to 182 agreements in 2011. The global economic crisis of 2008, which led to unprecedented trade contraction, particularly affecting countries that are well integrated into the global economy, put into serious question the viability of the export-led economic development model as the engine of sustainable economic growth. In the aftermath of the crisis however, the major economies seem to have made only small adjustments in their trade and economic policies, albeit reflecting a more aggressive and desperate push towards trade and investment liberalization via these bilateral and regional agreements.
Asia is in the crossfire of FTA negotiations from the EU and the U.S., approached through different strategies but with the same purposes. While negotiations for the EU-ASEAN Free Trade Agreement itself have stalled, bilateral agreements with individual ASEAN members continue to be pushed instead. Another important issue is the negotiation of the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA) between Chile, New Zealand, Singapore, Australia, Malaysia, Peru, United States, Vietnam, Brunei, Canada, Mexico, South Korea and Japan. This free trade agreement will liberalize the region even more and serve as a basis for future negotiations with any country in Asia. Many proposals in the TPPA create more intellectual property restraints that will limit access to medicines.
More than a hundred participants from various people’s and civil society organizations attended the one-day forum “The Development Challenge Under P-Noy: Tackling the Hard Questions,” which Focus on the Global South-Philippines organized through its Development Roundtable Series (DRTS) at the convention hall of the Bureau of Soil and Water Management on July 18, a week before
President Noynoy Aquino delivers his second State of the Nation Address (SONA).