Trump’s Asia tour


Rizwan Ghani
TRUMP’S tour has yielded more to the world in 12 days than what America had gained in last two decades. Trans-Pacific deal is going to go ahead without US. Abe is trying his best to make the deal successful but local Japanese media has raised questions about the future of the deal in the long run. With US withdrawn, the size of deal has already fallen to 13 percent of world’s economy from original 40 percent. Internal divisions have already surfaced. Blaming Malaysia and Vietnam as obstacles is not going to help deal. The fractures in 11 nations TPP deal will have negative impact on Abe’s economic plan. Trump’s APEC speech in which he blamed Asian countries for taking away jobs, factories and industries out of America has weakened Abe’s position who had promised prosperous strong Japan to his voters.
Beijing has proposed regional market solutions as an alternate to TPP. Economic experts have termed departure of US from TPP as a ‘Rebalance’ in trade in favor of Asia. The Belt and Road projects with Russia on board, Tokyo will have to review its China policy in its national interest and the larger interest of the region. Without mending fences with Beijing, Tokyo cannot protect its economy and security interest in the region. On the other hand, Trump has proved to be shrewd businessman. He used TPP, Sino-Japan territorial disputes and South China Sea situation to sign $400bn deals with Japan ($150bn) and China ($250bn). With $350bn deal in ME, Trump has already managed $750bn worth of mega deals in his first year in office. It will bring jobs and business for America. The deals will finance his tax break plan to rich Americans and given hope to worker. He gave commercial issues priority over security issues in case of Tokyo and Beijing, which is good diplomacy.
However, based on the same yardstick Trump’s India policy is deeply flawed and headed to fail. Obama Pivot to Asia with “string of pearls” nations supporting US in controlling waterways to China is no more there. Trump called them constellation of free nations. He said that I will protect America’s interest under America first policy and other countries are also free to look after their own interests. Trump did not object to Duterte remarks in which he rejected Trump’s offer of meditation on South China Sea by stating that the issue be left alone. Duterte also said that we have to be friends and there is no need to confront China and rest of the world. Also, Duterte revealed that Chinese President Xi Jinping signaled to him during a meeting that he wanted peace in the region and oppose any loss of life in a war. Trump said he wants free and open Pacific. ASEAN has given a clear message that peace (not war) will be given priority in the region.
Trump Danang speech was all about US-Asia economic relations. He did not stress on renewed partnerships and America’s military alliances. India will try to make a lot from its alliance with US, Australia and Japan. Trump’s Asia message is clear. The core interests of America are trade, investment and economic relations. Trump’s insistence on America first means that he will fight for country’s core interests. Experts opine that Trump will not hesitate to challenge countries that have trade deficits with US including India. With US-India standoff on H1B visa and trade in future, Trump-Modi cooperation will not last very long. The Indian business community will force Modi to review its anti-regional approach. Modi’s efforts to improve Indian economy have failed. India cannot survive in the region by boycotting the regional development plans in an interrelated world. Like any other country in the region, Delhi will also have to build healthy relations with its neighbors to have healthy business relations in the region and with America under Trump.
After Trump’s ASEAN speech, Tillerson statements on Pakistan have become irrelevant. The core policy of Trump is commerce and trade. There is no clash of commercial interest between both countries. Our business community should invite Trump to sign fair, transparent trade deals that serve workers of both countries with combined market of 550 million people. If corrupt Pakistani elite can invest hundreds of billions overseas and stash $500 in overseas accounts why can’t America and Pakistan have fair trade deals of much greater values? Trump should be able to see through the anti-Pakistan propaganda and avail the opportunity of building long term Pak-US commerce and trade relations in the larger interest of the region. Finally, if Trump manages to follow his ASEAN speech, Trump’s Asia tour will begin important developments in the region in commerce and trade, anti-corruption and anti-drug measures.
—The writer is senior political analyst based in Islamabad.

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