Natural Trading Partners Versus Empires in East and Southeast Asia Regional Integration (1840-1938)

Documento de Trabajo #2110

Título: Natural Trading Partners Versus Empires in East and Southeast Asia Regional Integration (1840-1938)

Autor/es: Alejandro Ayuso-Díaz

Abstract: This paper tries to contribute to the literature dealing with the history of regional integration in East and Southeast Asia, reconciling the arguments defending that those territories are natural trading partners, those supporting that Western Empires enabled integration, and the ones claiming that it was the Japanese Empire which expanded regional trade. With this purpose, we reconstruct the region’s bilateral imports before the establishment of Free Trade Areas. This work is pioneering in the econometric analysis of the main drivers of the commercial integration of East and Southeast Asia during the high colonial era (1840-1938). Our results show that countries’ specific economic and cultural characteristics made them natural trading partners. However, intra-Asian trade acceleration during the late 19th and early 20th Centuries was possible by the British free trade imperialism and the planned industrialization of the Japanese empire.

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