Joe Biden, the U.S. President may find it challenging to gather Asian “swing states” to form an ‘anti-China alliance’.
James Crabtree, a professor at the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy in Singapore mentioned that part of this challenge was raised from Biden’s promise of rebuilding the American middle class. This might hamper the efforts to push economic and trade policies which the Asian countries may sign up to.
On Friday, Crabtree mentioned to a news channel, “What the U.S. has done traditionally is, it’s tried to use both its security and economic power to entice allies into its camp. So for instance, it set up the original TPP trade agreement.”
A trade pact, TPP is negotiated by former President Barack Obama and 11 other countries, among which most of them in Asia-Pacific that excludes China.
James Crabtree said, “The reality is that America’s economic weight is declining, China’s is increasing. And China is also doing a pretty good job of stealing America’s clothes as the protector of free trade in the region.”
This deal in its original form could have been the world’s largest trade agreement that is covering also 40% of the global economy. This may enhance the strategic role of the U.S. in Asia-Pacific and counterbalance China’s growing political and economic clout in the region.
Moreover, this agreement was highly criticized in the U.S. and was not approved by Congress. Detractors that involve former President Donald Trump mentioned that TTP can accelerate the decline of U.S. manufacturing and hurt American workers.
In 2017, Donald Trump evacuated the U.S. name out of the deal. On the other hand, the remaining 11 countries signed and renegotiated and signed an agreement renamed the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific, or CPTPP.
However, the domestic pressure many continue to challenge attempts by the Biden administration to strike deals that may attract the region’s major exporting economies.
Crabtree exclaimed, “Biden has promised a trade and economic policy which is only going to benefit the American middle class.” Also, he added, “If he actually does that, it’s much more difficult then to try and strike economic agreements with … the big Asian exporting countries that are the swing states against China. It’s much more difficult for the U.S. to entice them into a broader anti-China alliance.”
Influence of China’s growth
For the last few years, China has enhanced its influence in Asia-Pacific as the U.S. appeared to evacuate from the region under Trump’s leadership.
One of the major development which boosted China’s standing was the sign of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership or RCEP. It is the world’s largest trade deal championed by Beijing which excludes the U.S. Some analysts mentioned at this time the deal was a “coup” for Beijing.
There has been renewed optimism which the Biden administration would reengage with the world and the region again. Indeed, the early signs pointed to the direction, with Biden beefing up his foreign policy team with experts on Asia.
Crabtree mentioned that Biden should have found “imaginative” ways to reassert U.S. leadership in the region. He said, “The reality is that America’s economic weight is declining, China’s is increasing. And China is also doing a pretty good job of stealing America’s clothes as the protector of free trade in the region.”
Also, he said “The big question is: Are they going to go back into the TPP? I think lots of people in Washington think that they should — but the politics is so difficult it’s not clear if they can.”