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Some Asian countries carry on extensive international trade. Asia has 17 of the world’s top 50 exporters, compared to 4 each from Africa and South America. In order of importance, the most notable exporting centers are Japan, Hong Kong, China, Taiwan, South Korea, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand, the United Arab Emirates, India, Iran, Turkey, Israel, the Philippines, and Oman.
Much of this trade is between Asian countries, particularly the export of raw material to Japan and Japan’s export of manufactured goods to Asian markets. Examples include the flow of oil to Japan from the Persian Gulf, and to a lesser extent from Indonesia and Brunei. Japan’s import and export trade with Southeast Asian countries is particularly strong.
The NIEs have growing exports of manufactured goods. Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates are oil exporters. Hong Kong and Singapore re-export goods from China and Malaysia, respectively. Indonesia and Malaysia are major traders in raw materials.
Several organizations support the economic development and growth of trade among Asian countries. The Asian Development Bank (ADB) is based in Manila. Like the World Bank, it loans money to member countries, sometimes at subsidized rates, for developmental purposes. Its Asian membership includes most of the countries of East, Southeast, and South Asia, as well as Afghanistan and Turkey. Based in Bangkok, the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) assists with the coordination of the UN’s development agencies, such as the FAO and the WHO. Asian membership in ESCAP includes the same group as the Asian Development Bank, excluding Turkey, plus Russia and several Central Asian states.
Two more localized organizations of importance are the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS). ASEAN was formed in 1967 to support a range of links between member nations. Its core membership of Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, the Philippines, and Brunei was supplemented by the addition of Vietnam in 1995, Myanmar and Laos in 1997, and Cambodia in 1998. Member states have created an ASEAN Free Trade Area (AFTA), which commits them to significantly reducing trade barriers, such as quotas and tariffs, by the early 21st century.
The CIS was formed in December 1991 as a loose successor to the Soviet Union. Russia, Belarus, and Ukraine were the founding members; they were soon joined by Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Moldova, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan. CIS members—which share characteristics from having been members of the USSR—initially formed to coordinate economic and foreign policy, although the organization’s roll has diminished since its founding in 1991.
In 1989 an organization called the Asian-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) was formed to facilitate trade between North America, Oceania, and Asia. Asian members include Brunei, China, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, Papua New Guinea, the Philippines, Singapore, South Korea, Taiwan, Thailand, and Vietnam. Since its modest launch APEC has grown in importance, with regular meetings of heads of government. While promoting “open regionalism,” which means it will not support trade barriers aimed at nonmember countries, it also seeks to reduce barriers to trade among members.