The main rationale for regional economic cooperation is agued to lie in the joint utilization of natural resources, human resources, and industrial bases in NEA. This pooled use of various resources provide an opportunity to reap the benefits of scale economies and an enlarged market. Economic growth in various parts and countries in NEA also renders a synergy effect for the region as a whole. Furthermore, deeper economic interdependence within the region is expected to promote regional prosperity and stability. Therefore, the essence of regional cooperation boils down to the mode of cooperation in the region. A multilateral economic cooperation mechanism is suggested in this paper to supplement the currently predominant pattern of bilateral cooperation in NEA. The economic cooperation committee in operation now with respect to the development of Tumenjiang area provides an easy channel to expand this into a more substantial body to discuss various concerns of economic development in the region.
As has been repeatedly pointed out, system incompatibility, lack of infrastructure, and lack of investment capital constitute three major obstacles to economic cooperation in NEA. With regard to political will, which is essential for initiating the process of economic cooperation, all the countries in the region except for North Korea seem to be committed to cooperation although their motives may not be the same. The issue is rather how to share benefits (as indicated in the case of Tumenjiang development project). If participating countries can obtain more benefits by cooperation and they are persuaded so, cooperation is a better option than non-cooperation. In addition, security issues in the region complicate the matrix of cooperation and non-cooperation and their payoffs. The analysis provided in this paper, in particular, with respect to trade and investment clearly indicates all the countries’ interests converge toward economic gains unless their sensitive security concerns are touched. This is a hopeful sign that the region will gradually move toward deeper economic interdependency unless there arises political and military conflicts within the region.
The process leading to higher economic interdependency is largely by market forces. However, NEA unlike Southeast Asia or other regions requires state assistance for market forces to work effectively. The reasons are again political and economic barriers between the countries. Institutional environment is different between the countries. Infrastructure development is uneven impeding the flows of information, capital, and people. Perceptions about the neighbors show a great variation among the people in the region. The historical legacy of war in the region provides an additional reason to suspect others’ intention. All these obstacles pose a threat to constructing a meaningful regional cooperation. As recent experiences of trade and investment between NEA countries suggest, confidence building has to star from action—running a factory or building a bridge in China and the RFE and so forth. This ground up approach, if complemented by state level agreement, will enable us overcome those obstacles eventually, thus paving the road for regional prosperity.
Considering the contingency of regional political changes—largely due to the uncertainty arising from North Korea’s position regarding international relations and economic cooperation, this paper proposed a gradual approach for economic cooperation and regional development in NEA. For the immediate future, it has been suggested that industrial cooperation can start from projects, which require less investment and negotiation. (The rest is omitted)
- 동북아 산업협력과 지역개발 전략구상
- 김원배; 김영봉