It is interesting that the theme of the “easternization” of the global system — the assertion that China is set to usurp the leadership role of an inward-turning United States — is not nearly as pronounced in the region as it is in the West.
Considering the asymmetric relationship Southeast Asian countries have with China in the economic and security realms, and the challenges this reality poses for them in terms of making progress in their territorial disputes with China, many see Japan-Southeast Asian strategic partnerships and Japan’s multifaceted relationship with the U.S. as interrelated, synergistic and a boon to their security anxieties.
Leaders from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations unveiled with fanfare another road map to a common community for the next decade even as the bloc missed targets for economic integration this year.
Is the TPP really targeting China? US President Barack Obama said on Monday, “we can’t let countries like China write the rules of the global economy. We should write those rules, opening new markets to American products while setting high standards for protecting workers and preserving our environment.”
This is not the first time that Obama expressed such views. This seems to prove that the US-led TPP is aimed at China. Objectively speaking, some TPP partners want to use the agreement as leverage against China. But it’s not surprising that geopolitical considerations mingle with economic relations.
The Trans-Pacific Partnership is the biggest trade agreement in history, reducing tariffs and other forms of protectionism in a dozen countries making up about 40 percent of the global economy with economic output of almost $30 trillion. The White House estimates it will eliminate 18,000 tariffs on U.S.-manufactured goods, while giving everyone from Vietnamese shrimpers to New Zealand dairy farmers cheaper access to markets across the Pacific.