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U.S. eyes closer engagement with Asia through trade.

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Postby rath » Sat Nov 14, 2009 12:02 am

U.S. eyes closer engagement with Asia through trade. ... 455088.htm

Washington is ready to further engage with Asia through trade and hopes a closer linkage with the world's fastest growing economies will help the United States recover sooner from the recession, a senior U.S. official said here Saturday, as President Barack Obama is on his maiden visit to the region.
"If we want to create the jobs Americans need, we must gain access to Asia-Pacific markets," U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk told businessmen attending the CEO Summit of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) in Singapore. "It is clear that Asia-Pacific economies are critical partners."

The top U.S. trade official also announced that Obama, who is leaving Japan for Singapore late Saturday on his first Asian trip, has promised Washington's commitment to engage in the four-member Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), a trading framework believed to have the potential to develop into a sweeping cross-Pacific free trade pact.

:lol: :lol: :lol: :lol:

Good luck with that.

:lol: :lol: :lol: :lol:
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Postby rath » Sat Nov 14, 2009 12:12 am

October 25, 2009.

Australia, Japan float rival plans for EU-style Asian bloc

But questions over a US role in any economic grouping and rivalry between China and Japan may thwart a rapid rollout of either plan, & may see the US left out of any such group.

Bangkok, Thailand - Regional partners to a Southeast Asian trade bloc have outlined rival proposals for a European-style economic community in Asia, home to the world's most dynamic economies.

At a weekend summit in southern Thailand, Japanese Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama talked up the concept of an "East Asian community" with a common currency that would "lead the world." Australia's Prime Minister Kevin Rudd separately proposed an Asia/Pacific economic bloc that includes the US and cooperates on security issues.

But political obstacles to economic integration, such as questions over a US place in any economic grouping and rivalry between major Asian powers like China and Japan, may thwart a rapid rollout of either plan.

Tensions also exist over who would guide any transition to an open market for goods and services. The Association of Southeast Asia Nations (ASEAN), the regional grouping that hosted the 16-nation summit, fears being upstaged by larger economies and reduced to a junior role.

In theory, ASEAN is supposed to establish a common market of over 500 million people in ten member-countries by 2015. But that deadline is widely seen as overly ambitious given the political and economic disparities between members, as well as niggling bilateral rifts on display at the summit.

Stronger Japanese diplomacy?

Mr. Hatoyama recently took office promising to put a stronger spin on Japanese diplomacy in Asia. His proposal for East Asian economic unity appears to be the first fruit, says Michael Montesano, a visiting fellow at the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies in Singapore.

"It's a reminder to ASEAN that the pace of ASEAN-centered integration has been slow. ... The real issue is whether [Japan's proposal] is controlled and managed by ASEAN or not. That's a real source of anxiety," he says.

Mr. Rudd's plan for a broader economic alliance is even less palatable as it may eventually impose political standards on members, says Mr. Montesano. By contrast, ASEAN watered down commitments to human rights and democracy in its charter adopted this year in deference to members like military-ruled Burma and communist Vietnam.

One plus for Mr. Hatayama's proposal is that it builds on ASEAN's existing ties to China, South Korean, and Japan. That fits Beijing's vision, says Thitinan Pongsudhirak, director of the Institute of Security and International Studies at Chulalongkorn University in Bangkok.

"China has always preferred a tighter, more organized East Asian framework," he says.

What role for the US?

But Japan may want to bring in the US as a counter-balance to China's growing power in Asia, he adds, potentially stirring up rivalry in Northeast Asia.

Australia's proposed grouping extends across the Pacific and appears similar in scope to the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation forum that holds its annual meeting next month in Singapore. The Australian plan includes India, which signed a limited trade pact with ASEAN in August.

However, domestic resistance to existing trade agreements in Asia point to the difficulty of integrating economies, particularly when sensitive sectors like agriculture are thrown into the mix.

In Thailand, a 2003 bilateral trade accord with China has sowed anger among small farmers who complain of a flood of cheap Chinese products. Other regional trade pacts have floundered for the opposite reason, as protectionism keeps out competitors by means of non-tariff barriers. Thailand and the Philippines clashed recently over rice import quotas within ASEAN.

Over the past decade, trade flows within ASEAN have steadily increased. But most of the gains are between more open economies like those of Malaysia and Thailand, not laggards like Burma and Cambodia. This has created a two-tier system that may be hard to integrate, unless smaller players opt out. Moreover, the region still relies on exports to Europe, the US, and Japan, though China is increasingly a destination for semi-finished products and commodities.

ASEAN's internal squabbles

ASEAN, which began in the 1960s as an anti-communist alliance, is also beset by internal squabbles. In recent days, Cambodia and Thailand have sparred openly over the status of former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, who is living in exile and is a fugitive from Thai justice.

At the summit, Cambodia's Prime Minister Hun Sen told reporters that Mr. Thaksin was welcome in Cambodia, even as Thai diplomats insisted that he should face arrest and extradition if he traveled there. Over the past year, the two countries have fought armed skirmishes over a disputed border temple, an issue that ASEAN has been powerless to tackle.

By siding with Mr. Thaksin and snubbing the current government, Hun Sen has dived headlong into Thailand's fraught politics, says Mr. Thitinan. "Everyone knows that Thailand is deeply divided and polarized and the way to deal with it is to stay out of it," he says.
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Postby rath » Mon Nov 16, 2009 9:20 am

16 November 2009

Obama seeking China's co-operation.

BBC News, Beijing

Speaking in Japan at the start of his East Asia tour, US President Barack Obama signalled his intention to reach out to China.

"The United States does not seek to contain China," Mr Obama said. "On the contrary, the rise of a strong and prosperous China can be a source of strength for the community of nations."

The fact of China's growing influence on the world stage is something President Obama is having to grapple with.

On Beijing's Tiananmen Square, the symbolic centre of the Chinese nation, people seemed sure this presidential visit will be different from previous ones.

"Because of the current economic crisis, the United States needs China's co-operation in many areas," said Mr Ma, who works in the shipping business.

"Previous US presidents came to China with an arrogant attitude, lecturing us. But with President Obama it's different, he's coming to China to seek our help."

And 27-year-old Wang Xiongbin, who works in real estate, agreed: "After staging the Olympic Games and our 60th anniversary parade here, foreigners now see China as a strong power.

"Obama is definitely hoping to build better relations with China, trade-wise, diplomacy-wise, co-operation-wise. He's definitely going to be softer than President Bush was."

Transformed country

At its most basic level China matters because of the growing power of its economy.

If you want future profits you need to be in China. And in many other ways too, America now needs China more than ever.

"We anticipate on major international issues - either economic, financial, climate change, energy, geo-political, and strategic - if China and the United States can not see eye to eye, then what will be the situation in the world? It can not be a peaceful, a stable world," Mr Gao says.

Reviving the global economy, dealing with a warming planet, securing future energy supplies, limiting the spread of nuclear weapons - these are among the biggest issues facing America's president and none can be tackled without China's help.

Nudging China

David Shambaugh of George Washington University says President Obama both needs and wants China to play a greater role in the world.

"China is now a global actor, literally present on every continent, in space, and even in Antarctica, and on every functional issue, as is the US."
Graph showing US and Chinese GDP

"These are the only two countries in the world that are truly globally engaged, but they are not doing things together," he says.

Encouraging it to be more active on the global stage, in concert with America, is a strategy to nudge China towards being a responsible great power.

But Chinese leaders themselves, getting used to their new status in the world, are cautious.

"China is terribly conflicted internally about what kind of role it should have in the world," Mr Shambaugh says.

"It still sees itself as a developing country with a lot of poverty. There are heated debates inside the Chinese international relations community government and the Chinese government about this. That is why the Obama administration is trying to push China into a more assertive and co-operative international role."

Such a grand vision though may mean less focus on other issues, such as human rights.

Dalai Lama dilemma

Ahead of his visit here, President Obama declined to meet the Dalai Lama in Washington.

The president has been criticised for appearing to soften before China - the need for constructive talks with China's leaders is more important than a symbolic meeting with Tibet's exiled spiritual leader.

In a chilly Beijing apartment the Tibetan activist Woeser is typing her internet blog.
Tibet activist and blogger Woeser
Tibet activists like Woesser are disappointed in Barack Obama

She is one of the few voices in China speaking out about Tibet. Mr Obama's decision not to meet the Dalai Lama was, she says, a blow.

"It was a huge disappointment. Also when Hillary Clinton visited China this year she didn't mention a word on Tibet or Chinese human rights issues. And again the same when [US House of Representatives Speaker] Nancy Pelosi came."

She thinks the changing economic relationship between the US and China is the reason for the change.

"Now there's an economic crisis, countries see their economic interests as a priority, human rights need to make way. It is simply that they want to do business with China. But what they are ignoring is not just the human rights situation in Tibet, it's the human rights situation in China in general."

So President Obama will focus instead on trying to forge a strategic relationship with China. And Victor Gao, the former Chinese government translator, says it could one day deliver benefits on many issues, even perhaps in Afghanistan.

"China can really help on these major international issues," Mr Gao says.

"If you leave China aside, I think the whole Afghanistan issue will be much more difficult to handle. Therefore, I think, for the United States to engage China in a sufficient manner, not only economic and financial, but more importantly I would say, political and strategically speaking, is very important."

China helping in Afghanistan may sound unlikely but, as Mr Shambaugh points out, China borders Afghanistan.

Like America it fears instability and violence spreading from there, and getting involved there would transform the way the US and Europe view a rising China.

"Afghanistan is an opportunity for China to contribute at the security level, by training Afghan police, and contributing at the humanitarian level through building schools, public health clinics and hard infrastructure," Mr Shambaugh says.

"If they were to contribute I think they would be seen in a much more positive light internationally by the countries that are deployed there."
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