Multilateral, bilateral, or unilateral liberalization: Which way for Asia and the Philippines?

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Trade liberalization brings prosperity to the participating nations by allowing consumers to have access to higher-quality and lower-priced goods. Also, it drives economic growth, enhanced efficiency, increased innovation, and the greater fairness that accompanies a rules-based system amended by the countries. These benefits increase overall trade exports and imports. Moreover, free trade reduces production costs and promotes countries to become economically successful.

ASEAN, as an economic union aims primarily at promoting economic growth and regional stability among its members. It also promotes regional peace through abiding by the rule of law in building relationships among countries. Furthermore, its free tariff is greatly beneficial to countries within the organization as this reaches zero compared to other economic blocs in the world. This results in a higher economic integration where barriers in international trade were lifted and the free exchange of goods and services contributes to the economic and mutual gains of both trading countries. However, the downside of this is that the big increase in non-tariffs makes it more complicated. Even though the tariffs or taxes on imported products were lifted, non-tariff barriers like licenses, quotas, embargoes, foreign exchange restrictions, and import deposits affect the costs of production of the countries who participate in trading. Hence, it is crucial to determine whether in what way or what substantial economic integration will be implemented if not global trade or regional.

Through international agreements, international organizations such as the ASEAN or other states subject to international law are able to regulate these kinds of matters that concern them. This assumes a variety of forms and styles, but they are all governed by ratified agreements on rules, procedures, and guidelines as part of international law. This can include multilateral, bilateral, and unilateral trade liberalization of nations. 

The advantage of the multilateral agreements is that it allows multiple countries who signed the said agreements to have the same playing field. It means that no participating countries can give better or worse trade deals to one country than it does to another. Everything must be fair sharing and benefits are distributed properly without any biases. In this type of agreement, all economies bring down their tariffs which makes it easier for them to import and export. It also strengthens the global economy by making developing countries competitive and giving economic benefits to all member nations. However, since this includes many countries, negotiations will be difficult and are expected to be more complex. 

Secondly is the bilateral agreement, which is done between two countries and the main purpose is to encourage trade and investment by eliminating barriers of trade such as tariffs, import quotas, and export restraints.  Compared to multilateral, the negotiations are much easier as it involves only two countries, and reaping trade benefits is done more quickly. Another good aspect of this is that disputes may be resolved easily as the implementations of the policies and negotiations are not chaotic. However, due to competition, countries may not able to surpass others or compete with more powerful industries if protective tariffs will be removed. This may affect the businesses and eventually the labor employment as well as the production of goods and services.

The third way is through unilateral agreements and the advantage of this is that developed countries offer more trade benefits to poorer nations. As the developed countries raise the tariffs on imports, the prices of locally made products became lower in comparison. Thus, with the said goal of helping them to increase exports, this boosts economic growth and creates jobs for beneficiary countries. 

In conclusion, from my own standpoint, as for ASEAN countries and especially for the Philippines, unilateral trade agreements are the best way to consider in order to attain economic development. With this, participating countries are able to trade with fewer negotiations as the policies are non-reciprocal. Also, it is implemented to provide aid and encourage an increase of healthy competition which leads the countries to continuously innovate and keep up with the pace of the ever-changing markets. Furthermore, this trade liberalization, allows the reaping of mutual gains as well as provides a greater variety of goods and services for domestic consumers. Therefore, this may be risky, however, this will be a great opportunity for countries to grow, develop, and become economically powerful. Thus, countries must prioritize what is best for them as a whole and take every chance that may contribute to the betterment and greater benefits of the nation. As well as may lead to promoting diplomatic solutions to international problems and building healthy relations with the neighboring countries.

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