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Five lessons of regional integration from Asia, America, and Africa

Sanjay Kathuria's picture
More than 50% of today’s international trade goes through regional trading arrangements.  While trade is a critical component of regional integration, integration has several other dimensions including energy cooperation and intra-regional investment, to name a few.  After carefully examining cases of regional integration in Southeast Asia, the Americas and Africa, we present five lessons for South Asia.

Lesson 1: Facilitate trade in goods and services

Despite falling tariffs, there is still a large gap between the price of the exported good and the price paid by the importer, largely arising from high costs of moving goods, especially in South and Central Asia. On a percentage basis, the potential gains to trade facilitation in South and Central Asia, at 8 percent of GDP, are almost twice as large as the global average. High trade costs have contributed to South Asia being the least integrated region in the world.

FIGURE 1: Intra-regional trade share (percent of total trade), 2012

In the ASEAN region, most countries have established either Trade Information Portals or Single Windows that have enhanced trade facilitation, reduced trade costs and enhanced intra-regional trade. A Trade Information Portal allows traders to electronically access all the documents they need to obtain approvals from the government. A Single Window (a system that enables international traders to submit regulatory documents at a single location and/or single entity) allows for the electronic submission of such documents. These single windows, using international open communication standards, facilitate trade both within the region and with other countries using similar standards.

In services, one barrier to trade involves the movement of skilled workers, accountants, engineers and consultants who may move from one country to another on a temporary basis. The Southern Common Market (Mercosur)’s Residence Agreement allows workers to reside and work for up to two years in a host country. This residence permit can be made permanent if the worker proves that they can support themselves and their family.

Boosting South Asian Trade – Carpe Diem!

Sanjay Kathuria's picture
Ismail Ferdous/World Bank

South Asia’s Commerce Ministers meet in Thimphu on July 24. Getting there would not have been easy for many of them, with no direct flights between Thimphu and four of the seven capitals. In June, when some of us convened for a regional meeting in Kathmandu, our Pakistani colleagues had to take a 20 hour flight from Karachi to Dubai in order to get to Kathmandu! This is symptomatic of the overall state of economic engagement within South Asia—in trade in goods and services, foreign direct investment and tourism.

South Asian countries’ trade policies remain inward-looking compared to other regions, and there are even bigger barriers to trade within the region. Today, South Asia today is less economically integrated than it was 50 years ago. Figure 1 below shows that intra-regional trade in South Asia accounts for less than 5 percent of total trade, lower than any other region. 

Innovation and Partnership Lie at the Heart of Cooperation in Water

Nansia Constantinou's picture

The world commemorated World Water Day on March 22 with events around the globe focusing on ways to make international cooperation happen in the water. Events held in celebration of the Day covered all aspects of water - from water supply and sanitation, to water and its nexuses with food and energy, water resources management and water and climate change. But in most, if not all of these events, one theme was clearly cross-cutting: the importance of strengthening partnerships to leverage knowledge and facilitate innovative solutions.

For Water and non-Water Wonks: A World Water Day 2013 (not comprehensive) Reading List

Given that World Water Day, March 22, is not even underway in a large part of the world, at the time of this writing, the amount of World Water Day coverage is no small thing. Here is how World Water Day (eve) has unfolded across the World Bank’s social media and websites.

Mexico: An opportunity for deeper co-operation

Hasan Tuluy's picture

Also available in español

The  World Bank Vice President for Latin America and the Caribbean, Hasan Tuluy, is in Mexico for the inauguration of the new government. In this video blog, Tuluy explains how Mexico and the World Bank will continue to work together to build a more prosperous society that benefits everyone.

Our Cities Will Define Our Future

Dan Hoornweg's picture

After the post was vacant for more than a year, Jennifer Keesmaat started this month as the Chief Planner for the City of Toronto. One of the first things she did was write an excellent article in the local newspaper arguing ‘our cities will define our future’. She makes the case for Toronto – but the same argument can be made globally and even more strongly for cities like Jakarta, Lagos, Sao Paulo, Belo Horizonte, Nanjing and Kunming. We are truly in the thick of the Urban Century; we are building cities at a faster rate than ever before, and increasingly these cities are defining our and our children’s future.

Imagining our Future Together Art Competition Update

South Asia's picture

On April 3, 2012, the World Bank announced the “Imagining Our Future Together” art exhibition competition for young artists (those born after 1975) to submit samples of their work to be included in an upcoming traveling exhibition, “South Asia Artists: Imagining Our Future Together.” The deadline for submissions was April 30, 2012.

We received applications from 231 artists in all eight South Asian countries:

Afghanistan: 41
Bangladesh: 25
Bhutan: 7
India: 83
Maldives: 2
Nepal: 15
Pakistan: 50
Sri Lanka: 8

Join Us At Our Three Upcoming Public Events!

South Asia's picture

Leveraging Technology and Partnerships to Promote Equity in South Asia

Wednesday, April 18 at 9:00AM

The Next South Asia Regional Flagship on equity and development (March 2013) will feature an eBook which will combine interactive multimedia as a part of the World Bank Open Data and Open Knowledge initiatives. This signals a new era in development analysis is produced and shared.

Please RSVP to Alison at by Tuesday, April 17th to attend.

Twitter hashtag: #wbequity


Breaking Down Barriers: A New Dawn on Trade and Regional Cooperation in South Asia

Thursday, April 19 at 3:00PM

Imagining our Future Together: A Call for South Asia Artists to Share Your Art!

South Asia's picture

Are you a South Asian artist from Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan, or Sri Lanka and born in or after 1975?

You are invited to share examples of your work for the exhibition South Asia Artists: Imagining Our Future Together.

Imagining our Future Together is a juried group exhibition that will be on display in throughout South Asia and beyond.


The concept of the exhibition comes from the realization that cooperation among the countries of South Asia is the key to the region’s success in the 21st century. And what better example of transcending borders and breaking stereotypes can be seen than in art created by emerging artists, some of our society’s most perceptive, creative and genuine minds?

Imagining our Future Together is an opportunity to communicate your experience, feelings and thoughts as visual artist to the rest of the world.

Budding Economists Showcase Regional Cooperation

Dulanii Liyanahetti's picture

It was a cold evening back in 2004 when a few students and professors of Ramjas College of the University of Delhi got together and initiated an idea that would form the basis for improving regional cooperation among South Asian countries. South Asia has many things in common, and is affected by diverse sets of issues that require cooperation to solve. Under this premise, the South Asian Economics Students’ Meet (popularly known as SAESM) came to life with valuable contributions made by five leading South Asian Universities offering Economics Degrees; the University of Delhi in India; Lahore School of Management Sciences in Pakistan; University of Dhaka in Bangladesh; University of Colombo in Sri Lanka and Tribhuvan University in Nepal.