Regional Trade Opportunities for Asian Agriculture

Trade in food and other agricultural products is increasingly important across East and Southeast Asia, where high-income Asian economies have driven significant agricultural expansion, and the momentous growth of the People's Republic of China (PRC) promises more stimulus to agrofood activity in the region. The PRC is expected to become a net importer of agrofood in the coming decades, which will have significant implications within the region. As its middle class continues to emerge, the resource intensity of food consumption (e.g., meat and dairy) will lead to net imports and require expansion of agricultural capacity elsewhere. Because low-income Southeast Asia is generally seen to be well below its agrofood potential, this situation suggests a significant opportunity for self-directed poverty reduction through regional agrofood market expansion. This paper reviews the history of high-income Asia and the PRC's emergence in the region's agrofood markets. Finally, the Greater Mekong Subregion's role is analyzed for the potential of Asian agrofood trade to contribute to poverty reduction.