Why has world trade grown and has Southeast Asia always been part of it? This fundamental question has been posed by economists like Nobel laureate Paul Krugman, who said “Most journalistic discussion of the growth of world trade seems to view growing integration as driven by a technological imperative – to believe that improvements in transportation and communication technology constitute an irresistible force dissolving national boundaries” (1995: 328). An alternative explanation might stress instead declining political barriers to trade, which help link distant markets and erase commodity price gaps between them. A third potential explanation seems to have been even more powerful in practice – unusually fast world income growth during those epochs of trade booms.