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Asia Unbound

CFR experts give their take on the cutting-edge issues emerging in Asia today.

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TPP and its Implications for Global Access to Medicines

by Guest Blogger for Yanzhong Huang
The twelve Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) Ministers hold a press conference to discuss progress in the negotiations in Lahaina, Maui, Hawaii July 31, 2015. Pacific Rim trade ministers failed to clinch a deal on Friday to free up trade between a dozen nations after a dispute flared between Japan and North America over autos, New Zealand dug in over dairy trade and no agreement was reached on monopoly periods for next-generation drugs. (Marco Garcia/Reuters) The twelve Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) Ministers hold a press conference to discuss progress in the negotiations in Lahaina, Maui, Hawaii July 31, 2015. Pacific Rim trade ministers failed to clinch a deal on Friday to free up trade between a dozen nations after a dispute flared between Japan and North America over autos, New Zealand dug in over dairy trade and no agreement was reached on monopoly periods for next-generation drugs. (Marco Garcia/Reuters)

Mi Lin is an intern for Global Health Governance at the Council on Foreign Relations.

On March 9-10 and March 16-17, two sections of the United Nations Secretary-General’s High-Level Panel on Access to Medicines (UNGSAM) were held in London and Johannesburg, respectively. These two conventions were launched in response to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s call last November to “find solutions to the lack of access to medicines.” This was the first time such a high-level panel on access to medicines was made open to the public.  Though the two dialogues, one in a developed country and the other in a developing country, had different conversational dynamics, issues surrounding intellectual property (IP) rules in free trade agreements (FTAs) were frequently raised in both sections. Health advocates have long argued that stricter IP provisions in FTAs is a main barrier to access to essential medicines for populations in developing countries. As the recently signed Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) adds the latest development to this decades-long debate on trade and health, issues around TPP and its potential effects on global access to medicine also arose frequently at the panel. Read more »

A “Gut Check” on U.S.-China Policy

by Elizabeth C. Economy
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry (R) and Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi hold a joint news conference after their meeting at the State Department in Washington, February 23, 2016. REUTERS/Yuri Gripas TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry (R) and Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi hold a joint news conference after their meeting at the State Department in Washington, February 23, 2016. (Yuri Gripas/Reuters).

At the end of March, I testified before the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission on the economic aspects of the “rebalance” to Asia.  I have testified before the commission several times, know a number of the commission members, and typically enjoy the experience. This time was no different. However, I was struck by the number of “gut check” questions, as one commissioner put it—questions where the answer appears clear, even obvious, but with a bit more pushing becomes less clear and less obvious. Here are some of the “gut check” questions that the commissioners asked that have made me take another look:

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What “One Belt, One Road” Could Mean for China’s Regional Security Approach

by Guest Blogger for Elizabeth C. Economy
A Chinese flag marking a railway linked to China is seen in front of a train at the Khorgos border crossing point, east of the country's biggest city and commercial hub Almaty, Kazakhstan, October 19, 2015. Kazakhstan wants to establish itself as a major trading hub between China and Europe and get a share of a $600 billion market, but it will have to end tough, often time-wasting, regulations that hurt its reputation as a cross-border trading partner. Picture taken October 19, 2015. REUTERS/Shamil Zhumatov A Chinese flag marking a railway linked to China is seen in front of a train at the Khorgos border crossing point, east of the country's biggest city and commercial hub Almaty, Kazakhstan, October 19, 2015. Kazakhstan wants to establish itself as a major trading hub between China and Europe. The nation is also a key counterterrorism partner for China. (Shamil Zhumatov/Reuters)

Rachel Brown is a research associate in Asia Studies at the Council on Foreign Relations.

In November, when the Islamic State group executed Chinese hostage Fan Jinghui, a Chinese advertising consultant and self-identified “wanderer,” Chinese netizens quickly vented their frustration over the government’s limited response. One Weibo user wrote, “It’s time for China as a big power to stand up and act.” Although Chinese censors temporarily blocked keywords such as “hostage” and “IS,” the burst of online sentiment raised questions about how the Chinese government would react to the mounting threat posed by terrorism both abroad and within its borders. In particular, would the specter of the Islamic State lead China to change its regional security strategy as it expands its trade and investment presence under its “One Belt, One Road” initiative?

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China’s New Military Presence in Africa

by Guest Blogger for Elizabeth C. Economy
China's President Xi Jinping speaks during a Forum on China-Africa Cooperation in Sandton, Johannesburg, December 4, 2015. REUTERS/Siphiwe Sibeko China's President Xi Jinping speaks during a Forum on China-Africa Cooperation in Sandton, Johannesburg, December 4, 2015. (Siphiwe Sibeko/Reuters)

Allen Grane is a research associate in Africa Policy Studies at the Council on Foreign Relations.

Recently, the Chinese government closed a deal with the Djibouti government to build its first international military base. The deal grants the Chinese government land rights for ten years, and has abruptly sparked debate over Chinese military interests in Africa. Commentators’ fears have focused on the threat of China’s military expansion in the region. The new base, however, reflects China’s long-term economic goals in Africa more than its current military objectives.

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Fresh Upheavals in the South Asian Region

by Alyssa Ayres
Birgunj, Nepal: Madhesi protesters block the highway connecting Nepal to India in a general strike against Nepal’s new constitution on November 4, 2015 (Navesh Chitrakar/Reuters). Birgunj, Nepal: Madhesi protesters block the highway connecting Nepal to India in a general strike against Nepal’s new constitution on November 4, 2015 (Navesh Chitrakar/Reuters).

From the day he assumed office, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi made clear his priority on establishing strong ties across the South Asian region. His open invitation to the leaders of all the South Asian countries to attend his inauguration set the tone for a foreign policy focused on building economic ties and regional connectivity, a pragmatic bid to overcome South Asia’s longstanding problem as one of the least economically integrated regions in the world. Initial Indian diplomacy with Bangladesh and Nepal helped deliver gains toward a more consolidated South Asian region, at peace and focused on development and economics. Political change in Sri Lanka ended the divisive Rajapaksa era, one of increased tensions with India, and Colombo’s new government immediately expanded ties—with a strong trade component—with India. The South Asian Area of Regional Cooperation (SAARC) summit in November 2014 resulted in region-wide agreements on transportation connectivity, an important infrastructure step to enhancing economic ties. Read more »

China’s Role in Myanmar’s Dangerous Jade Trade

by Guest Blogger for Elizabeth C. Economy
Jade-trade-11-2-15 A man checks the quality of a jade stone found in the mine dump piled by major mining companies at a jade mine in Hpakant township in Myanmar's Kachin State, January 10, 2010. (Soe Zeya Tun/Reuters)

Gabriel Walker is a research associate in Asia Studies at the Council on Foreign Relations.

In late October, Global Witness released an important report that systematically explored Myanmar’s jade industry, calling it the “biggest natural resource heist in modern history.” The mining and trade of the gem have been catalogued by journalists, photographers, and authors in the past, but most accounts only mention China’s economic role in driving demand for jade. Read more »

Where’s India on the Trans-Pacific Partnership?

by Alyssa Ayres
U.S. President Barack Obama shakes hands with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi during their meeting at the United Nations General Assembly in New York on September 28, 2015 (Kevin Lamarque/Reuters). U.S. President Barack Obama shakes hands with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi during their meeting at the United Nations General Assembly in New York on September 28, 2015 (Kevin Lamarque/Reuters).

The United States and eleven other countries have concluded negotiations on the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), a trade pact that will cover 40 percent of global trade spanning Asia and the Pacific Rim, including some Latin American countries. It represents a subset of the countries in the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum, and one can anticipate that other APEC members may elect to join the TPP in the future. While China, the largest economy in Asia, has not been part of the negotiations, it has “welcomed” the agreement. The Japanese prime minister has indicated that Chinese membership in TPP would aid “Asia-Pacific regional stability.” Back in June, President Barack Obama said that Chinese officials had been “putting out feelers” about joining. Read more »

What’s New in the U.S.-India Strategic and Commercial Dialogue

by Alyssa Ayres
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry participates with Indian Minister of External Affairs Sushma Swaraj (L) and U.S. Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker (R) at the U.S-India Strategic and Commercial Dialogue plenary session at the State Department in Washington on September 22, 2015 (Gary Cameron/Reuters). U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry participates with Indian Minister of External Affairs Sushma Swaraj (L) and U.S. Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker (R) at the U.S-India Strategic and Commercial Dialogue plenary session at the State Department in Washington on September 22, 2015 (Gary Cameron/Reuters).

Yesterday U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker co-convened, with their Indian counterparts External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj and Commerce and Industry Minister of State Nirmala Sitharaman, the new U.S.-India Strategic and Commercial Dialogue (S&CD). India and the United States have been convening a strategic dialogue since 2010, so the change this year elevated discussion of economic and commercial issues to the cabinet level alongside the central matters of security and global diplomatic concerns. Read more »

Guest Post: Micron Takeover by Chinese Company Raises Cybersecurity and Regulatory Concerns

by Guest Blogger for Yanzhong Huang
Memory chip parts of U.S. memory chip maker MicronTechnology are pictured at their fair booth at an industrial fair in Frankfurt, Germany, July 14, 2015. China's state-backed Tsinghua Unigroup Ltd is preparing a $23 billion bid for Micron in what would be the biggest Chinese takeover of a U.S. company. (Reuters/Kai Pfaffenbach) Memory chip parts of U.S. memory chip maker MicronTechnology are pictured at their fair booth at an industrial fair in Frankfurt, Germany, July 14, 2015. China's state-backed Tsinghua Unigroup Ltd is preparing a $23 billion bid for Micron in what would be the biggest Chinese takeover of a U.S. company. (Reuters/Kai Pfaffenbach)

by Ariella Rotenberg and Peng Di

Ariella Rotenberg is a research associate in U.S. foreign policy at the Council on Foreign Relations. Peng Di, a former intern for the global health program, also contributed to this post.

Just this week, the Obama administration announced publicly that it would retaliate against China for coordinating a cyber attack that resulted in the theft of over twenty million American’s personal information. While attention in the public sphere is currently focused on the administration’s policy reversal, over the course of the past few weeks many technology fiends, finance experts, and cybersecurity analysts turned their attention to the potential buyout of the Boise, Idaho-based Micron Technology Inc. by Chinese company Tsinghua Unigroup. Read more »

Artemisinin’s Rocky Road to Globalization: Part II

by Yanzhong Huang
A health worker checks a blood sample for malaria in the only hospital in Pailin in western Cambodia January 28, 2010. Bordering with Thailand, this former Khmer Rouge stronghold and dusty gem mining town is now better known for a malarial parasite that is worrying health experts in the region. Studies and research show artemisinin-based therapies - currently the most effective treatment against malaria - are taking longer to cure some of the patients. (Damir Sagolj/ Courtesy: Reuters) A health worker checks a blood sample for malaria in the only hospital in Pailin in western Cambodia January 28, 2010. Bordering with Thailand, this former Khmer Rouge stronghold and dusty gem mining town is now better known for a malarial parasite that is worrying health experts in the region. Studies and research show artemisinin-based therapies - currently the most effective treatment against malaria - are taking longer to cure some of the patients. (Damir Sagolj/ Courtesy: Reuters)

In my previous blog post, I described how artemisinin-based drugs were discovered in China in the 1970s and 1980s. Given their potency for the treatment of malaria, one would expect that Chinese made artemisinin-based drugs quickly became the first choice medicine in the global fight against malaria. Much to the chagrin of Chinese scientists and pharmaceutical companies, the World Health Organization (WHO) did not list a single one of China’s antimalarial drugs on its procurement list until 2007.

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