Asia must liberalize trade: ADB

Posted at 05/04/2012 1:15 PM | Updated as of 05/04/2012 11:03 PM

MANILA, Philippines - The Asian Development Bank (ADB) urged Asian governments to pursue reforms to support long-term growth in the region.

"The world is experiencing a fundamental transformation...Now is the time to push through with greater reforms to support the region’s long-term growth," ADB president Haruhiko Kuroda said, in a speech at the opening of the ADB board of governors meeting on Friday.

Kuroda said Asia must liberalize trade within the region and strengthen physical connectivity through infrastructure.

"Increased regional cooperation will help Asian countries take up common challenges and seize opprtunities. This includes liberalizing trade within the region to further encourage rebalancing. It includes strengthening physical connectivity thru investment in infrastructure and building sophisticated financial systems to better channel Asia's savings into productive investments at home," he said.

Governments should focus not just on growing the economy but also improving the quality of life of their people. The ADB estimates some 1.8 billion people are living in poverty in the region.

Kuroda emphasized regional cooperation is increasingly important, and urged Asia to strengthen relationships with other developing regions such as Latin America.

Green investments

Asia is rapidly becoming a leader in green investments, with initiatives in clean and renewable energy, sustainable resource management and conservation of ecosystems.

"Green growth recognizes that environmental, social, economic development complement rather than compete with one another other. I believe with commitment, the right policies and investments and close regional cooperation, the Asia-Pacific could lead the world toward a more sustainable future. I'm pleased to note Asia is rapidly becoming a global force in green investment, which are becoming an engine of growth in the region," Kuroda said.

The ADB is supporting efforts in many Asian countries to adopt plans that reduce the intensity of carbon dioxide emission and improve resilience to climate change.

As Asian cities facing rapid urbanization, Kuroda said there is a need to build "livable, inclusive, environmentally sustainable cities."

Kuroda said Asia should also embrace knowledge as a key development strategy. "Asia needs institutional governance and regulatory frameworks that will foster investment in research and development, protect intellectual property rights, offer incentives for innovations, and stimulate competition," he said.