Gordon Campbell | Parliament TV | Parliament Today | News Video | Crime | Employers | Housing | Immigration | Legal | Local Govt. | Maori | Welfare | Unions | Youth | Search

 


Trade alliances to reshape Asia far from settled

Canberra Times

Opinion

November 20, 2012


http://www.canberratimes.com.au/opinion/trade-alliances-to-reshape-asia-far-from-settled-20121119-29mc5.html


America's policy 'pivot' to Asia involves intensified diplomacy and shifting US military forces into places where, in co-operation with regional allies and friends, they can more effectively counterbalance the increasingly assertive rise of China.


But there is another leg to the pivot policy, one of economic engagement with Asia, a major trade and investment partner and source of future growth as America tries to hasten its recovery.


This leg has developed a limp and US President Barack Obama, who has made south-east Asia his first overseas destination following his recent re-election, is trying to restore strength to the limb by visiting Thailand, Burma and Cambodia.


The US diplomatic and military pivot to Asia is only one dimension of the strategic jostling between the US and China. The other is a competition for regional economic influence as the world's two top economies support different visions for future trade, investment and business growth.


One plan is centred on Asia and backed by China to enhance its position. The other spans the Pacific Ocean to link the Americas and Asia, and is championed by the US to increase its leverage.

In Phnom Penh on Tuesday, Obama will join leaders from 17 other, mainly Asian, nations for East Asia Summit talks. A centrepiece will be a decision to launch negotiations to form the world's largest economic bloc, an arrangement to liberalise trade, investment and other barriers to business encompassing 16 nations on the Asian side of the Pacific rim.


Foreshadowed by heads of government of the Association of South-East Asian Nations, a year ago, this plan for closer economic integration is known as the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP).


The 10 ASEAN member states already have free trade agreements in place with the six regional economies - Australia, China, India, Japan, New Zealand and South Korea. The 16 partners will aim to conclude negotiations to consolidate these separate deals into a compatible framework by the end of 2015.


The plan could transform the region, which contains about 3.5 billion people - about half the world's population - into an integrated market. It would account for more than 27 per cent of international trade by value, with an economic output of $US23 trillion ($22.2 trillion), one-third of annual global gross domestic product.


However, the US is not part of the RCEP. Instead, it is promoting an alternative economic arrangement to integrate markets and business practices around the Pacific rim by linking the Americas to Asia.


Known as the Trans-Pacific Partnership, it involves the US and 10 other countries. Four - Brunei, Malaysia, Singapore and Vietnam - are ASEAN members. Two - Australia and New Zealand - are Asia-Pacific nations. The remaining four - Canada, Chile, Mexico and Peru - are from the western hemisphere.


The current 11 TPP members will hold the 15th round of negotiations in New Zealand next month. They aim to conclude a deal by the end of next year.


Meanwhile, Obama wants to build a more impressive coalition of countries to give the TPP more heft.


Thailand has just agreed to explore membership of the TPP. Earlier this month, the government of Japan, the world's third biggest economy, pledged to do the same if it won impending general elections, although that was far from certain.


However, two Asian giants, China and India, are not part of the TPP talks and have opted to join the RCEP. Indonesia, south-east Asia's largest economy, has done likewise as have four other ASEAN states - Cambodia, Laos, Burma and the Philippines, a US ally.


Another notable absentee from the TPP negotiations is South Korea, also a US ally. It has a bilateral free trade agreement with the US.


The US Trade Representative Ron Kirk said in September that there was room for two regional economic integration initiatives.

'We see them as a complementary, not necessarily [in] competition' Kirk said.

Both the RCEP and the TPP, when concluded, will be open to new members that accept the rules. But they are in competition.


Entry requirements are likely to be less demanding for the RCEP than they are for the TPP. That appeals to developing economies and also to industrial states like Japan and South Korea which want to protect their politically sensitive agricultural producers from foreign competition.


Japan and Thailand are not the only countries hedging their bets by taking part in both sets of negotiations. So, too, are Brunei, Australia, Malaysia, New Zealand and Singapore.

None of them want to appear to be aligning economically with either China or the US in case they choose the wrong side and undermine their future growth prospects. The US and China, which together account for a third of world output, are seen as twin sources of economic growth as Europe and Japan stagnate.


Australia has said its highest trade negotiation priority is the conclusion of the TPP but knows it will be difficult. So the Trade Minister Craig Emerson has said that the RCEP would be 'the perfect vehicle for advancing Australia's interests in the Asian century.'


Although the TPP has been limping, the RCEP has yet to take substantial shape. Progress may be slowed by infighting, particularly between China and Japan.


The stakes in the competition between the US-led TPP and the RCEP with China as its leading economy are high. Whichever bloc emerges with the most weight and credibility will be in the best position to attract new members and enmesh them into its network.


Michael Richardson is a visiting senior research fellow at the Institute of South-East Asian Studies in Singapore.

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
 
 
Parliament Headlines | Politics Headlines | Regional Headlines

Gordon Campbell: On Last Night’s Debate, And The Collins Accusation

Debating is a peculiar discipline in that what you say is less important than how you’re saying it. Looking poised, being articulate and staying on topic generally wins the day – and on that score, Labour leader David Cunliffe won what turned out to be a bruising encounter with Prime Minister John Key last night on TVNZ.

Cunliffe marshalled his points better, kept Key off balance and – more often than not – was in control of the general tenor of the contest. Labour supporters would have been heartened, and given some belated reassurance that maybe the change of leadership last year had been the right decision. More>>

 

Parliament Today:

Gordon Campbell: On Winston Peters' Latest Bout Of Immigrant Bashing

It is only one poll, but rather than cannibalising each other's vote, Colin Craig and Winston Peters do seem to be managing to find the room to co-exist... Few are questioning how Peters got to this happy place, and what it says about the mood of the electorate. More>>

ALSO:

More Immigration News: First People Trafficking Charges

The first people trafficking charges in New Zealand have been brought by Immigration New Zealand (INZ)... The defendants have been charged under the Crimes Act 1961 for arranging by deception the entry of 18 Indian nationals into New Zealand. More>>

Collins 'Misinterprets Media Reports': "Too Compromised To Remain Justice Minister"

Bizarre claims by Judith Collins this morning that she had been cleared of inappropriate behaviour by the Privacy Commissioner demonstrates she is too compromised to remain Justice Minister, Labour MP Grant Robertson says. More>>

ALSO:

Labour On Climate Change: Focus On The Now For The Future

A Labour Government will put in place a comprehensive climate change strategy focusing on both mitigation and adaptation, establish an independent Climate Commission and implement carbon budgeting, says Labour Climate Change spokesperson Moana Mackey. More>>

ALSO:

Gordon Campbell: On National’s Housing Assistance Plan

So, as many as 90,000 people could derive some benefit from National’s housing assistance plans for low and middle-income earners... Yet in reality, the benefits seem likely to be insignificant, and they will be skewed towards those at the top end of the income group that’s supposedly the target. More>>

ALSO:

Election Data Consortium: National’s Worst Case Scenario At Stage One?

A month out from the general election and ipredict traders are still forecasting National’s vote to slip below current polling levels and there is potential for it to fall further. More>>

ALSO:

From The Scoop Video Archive: PM Says SIS "Told Me" About OIA Release

In a press conference immediately following an controversial OIA release of notes on an SIS briefing to then Labour leader Phil Goff, Key said "at that point [Tucker] told me he'd release it ...". Since the release of Nicky Hager's 'Dirty Politics' Key has denied being personally informed and said references by officials to 'the PM' being told briefed referred to his office. He now says the same about his own statement. More>>

ALSO:

  • Scoop Video in the news - New questions over Key claims | NZ Herald News - Stuff.co.nz
  • Earlier - Felix Marwick: Laying out facts over SIS documents - Newstalk ZB
  • Labour - Director’s letter contradicts Key’s claims
  • ACT - The Letter - 26 days to go
  • TV3 Video - Housing issue nudges Dirty Politics aside - David Cunliffe: Key's SIS explanation 'defies belief' - SIS leak came from Key's Office - Goff - Key 'categorically denies' Slater OIA discussion - Video: Key faces more Dirty Politics questions

  • TVNZ - Winston Peters: ‘Dirty Politics' is a new low
  • The Nation - Debate Between Grant Robertson And Russel Norman
  • NZ First - “The Words Mean What I Say They Mean”
  • Get More From Scoop

     

    LATEST HEADLINES

     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
    Politics
    Search Scoop  
     
     
    Powered by Vodafone
    NZ independent news