Asian Powers Comment on U.S. Plans for Asia-Pacific Economic Integration

The United States is “pivoting” toward Asia. This strategy was formally publicized last month with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s essay on “America’s Pacific Century.” This week, President Barack Obama has been visiting Asia to push for a Trans-Pacific trading bloc and stronger military ties with US allies. How are major Asian powers reacting to America’s strategy to “re-engage” the Asia Pacific region? Today’s post  highlights Chinese, Russian and Japanese views on the economic aspects of this strategy.

CHINA
Chinese officials have so far made only brief comments on the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), all of which express China’s support for regional economic integration but stressing its preference for existing mechanisms. Assistant Commerce Minister Yu Jianhua said any trade mechanism should be “open and inclusive,” while Foreign Ministry Spokesman Hong Lei said economic integration should proceed in a “step-by-step manner.”

Commentary in the press characterized the TPP as a part of a wider strategy to contain China:

 Academic opinions leaned toward a “wait-and-see” attitude:

  • Wang Yuzhu of the Institute of Asia-Pacific Studies at Chinese Academy of Social Sciences said, “Economic regionalism is China’s most pragmatic choice, because the international architecture is changing rapidly. China has to recalibrate its relations with the rest of the world.”
  • According to Lu Jianren, deputy director of the APEC Study Center at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, “How the TPP negotiations will progress is still a matter of great uncertainty. What can be certain is it will be strategically detrimental to the old ASEAN Plus Three coalition, which has long been lagging behind in forming a free-trade zone that can allow a level of economic unity in the region.”

RUSSIA

As Russia gears up to host the 2012 APEC summit in Vladivostock, commentary on U.S. re-engagement in Asia was introspective, questioning Russia’s own unique orientation as both a European and Asian state.  Read more of this post

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Is There a Relationship between Political and Economic Integration?

By Nikola Mirilovic

Economic integration in Asia has progressed further and enjoys broader support than political integration. Whether economic integration requires political integration in order to survive, and the nature of the relationship between interdependence and conflict, remain open questions. That is the case in general as well as in the particular case of key contemporary rising powers: China and India. These questions will play an important role in understanding the prospects for conflict or cooperation in Asia. This Policy Commentary outlines the general debate on these questions and applies it to China and to India.

 The Interdependence Debate

 The main argument linking economic integration and peace is as follows. Increasing trade and international investment facilitates economic efficiency by allowing for economies of scale, and for countries to take advantage of the benefits of specialization and exchange. Once international economic links are established, governments do not want to interrupt them and suffer an economic loss. They consequently pursue stable and peaceful relations with their trading partners.

 The counterargument is that economic integration can increase the likelihood of conflict in two principal ways. First, integration can lead to trade disputes. For example, trade imbalances can lead to complaints by the country that is experiencing a trade deficit. Inflows of foreign investment can lead to concerns about excessive influence by foreigners. Read more of this post

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