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These are worrying times for world trade. Despite a recent leveling out after the first quarter's collapse, the World Trade Organization reckons global trade volumes will be around 10 percent lower this year than in 2008. Yet amid the general gloom, activity on one sort of trade-bilateral free-trade agreements (FTAs)-continues at a feverish pace in Asia. This month, another deal was signed, this time between India and South Korea.
The agreement is the first between two of Asia's four biggest economies (India, China, Japan and South Korea). But the stream of FTAs, typically between one large economy and a smaller partner, has become a flood in the past decade. From just six in 1991, their number had increased to 42 by 1999. But almost three times as many have been signed since, bringing the number of such agreements in Asia to 166 by June this year, according to the Asian Development Bank.
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