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

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Talking Trade With India

by Alyssa Ayres
delhi-shopkeeper A shopkeeper speaks on his mobile phone in front of his shop selling iron pipes in the old quarters of Delhi on November 12, 2014 (Anindito Mukherjee/Courtesy: Reuters).

It’s been a good month for trade talks with India. On November 14, U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman announced that a four-month impasse with India concerning food security and the World Trade Organization (WTO) Bali trade facilitation agreement had been broken. A U.S.-India “agreement on trade faciliation” should at last allow the WTO Bali package to advance. It’s most welcome news, especially since India’s refusal to ratify the Bali agreement back in July had resulted in an existential crisis for the WTO. As Froman stated in his speech to Indian industry,  “Some have suggested that the India-U.S. breakthroughs—in Bali and again two weeks ago—may well have saved the multilateral trading system.” Read more »

India’s Brinkmanship at WTO Hurts It at APEC

by Alyssa Ayres
India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi walks on the red carpet during China's President Xi Jinping's ceremonial reception at the forecourt of India's Rashtrapati Bhavan presidential palace in New Delhi on September 18, 2014. Prime Minister Modi turned down an invitation from Xi to attend this month's APEC meeting in Beijing. (Courtesy Reuters/Ahmad Masood) India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi walks on the red carpet during China's President Xi Jinping's ceremonial reception at the forecourt of India's Rashtrapati Bhavan presidential palace in New Delhi on September 18, 2014. Prime Minister Modi turned down an invitation from Xi to attend this month's APEC meeting in Beijing. (Courtesy Reuters/Ahmad Masood)

The annual APEC summit is underway in Beijing. Perhaps the most notable absentee is India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who received an unprecedented invitation in July from Chinese President Xi Jinping to attend the gathering. Despite growing to become the world’s third largest economy in PPP terms, India is not a member of APEC, and as a result would not normally attend the summit. But this year President Xi used his platform as the summit host to extend invitations to non-members India, Pakistan, and Mongolia. While Pakistan and Mongolia’s leaders made the trip to Beijing for APEC, Prime Minister Modi decided not to do so. It’s a missed opportunity for India’s economic diplomacy at a time it could use a boost. Read more »

What a Republican-Controlled Senate Means for India

by Alyssa Ayres
The dome of the U.S Capitol is seen behind autumn leaves in Washington on November 5, 2014. Republicans rode a wave of voter discontent to seize control of the Senate, dealing a punishing blow to President Barack Obama that will limit his legislative agenda for his last two years in office (Kevin LaMarque/Courtesy: Reuters). The dome of the U.S Capitol is seen behind autumn leaves in Washington on November 5, 2014. Republicans rode a wave of voter discontent to seize control of the Senate, dealing a punishing blow to President Barack Obama that will limit his legislative agenda for his last two years in office (Kevin LaMarque/Courtesy: Reuters).

With the midterm elections in the United States decisively giving the Republican Party control of the Senate, and a stronger showing in the Republican-controlled House of Representatives, speculation in Washington now centers on what a Republican Congress means for policy. In The Water’s Edge, CFR’s James M. Lindsay argues that Republican control will change foreign policy, but less than many might think. In Foreign Policy, Bruce E. Stokes argues that a more aggressive foreign policy might be on the offing. In the Financial Times, Shawn Donnan reports that Republicans have already offered up trade as an area for cooperation with the White House. So what does Republican control of Congress suggest for India and the U.S.-India relationship? I’ll focus on the Senate here since leadership transitions will take place in January for every committee. Read more »

Bangladesh: Capitalist Haven

by Alyssa Ayres
Dhaka, April 2014. Photo by Sharada Prasad CS licensed under CC BY 2.0 / Cropped from original. Dhaka, April 2014. Photo by Sharada Prasad CS licensed under CC BY 2.0 / Cropped from original.

Earlier this month, the Pew Research Center released the second of two major reports detailing findings from a global public opinion survey on economic issues conducted last spring in forty-four countries. Read together, the two reports reveal something you might not have guessed: Bangladesh is among the countries most supportive of the free market, and certainly the most free-market, trade-oriented country surveyed in South Asia. At least as far as public opinion is concerned, the People’s Republic of Bangladesh is a capitalist haven. Read more »

Maclachlan and Shimizu: Shinzo Abe’s Tug-of-War With the Farm Lobby

by Guest Blogger for Sheila A. Smith
Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe drives a rice planting machine at a a paddy field in Sendai, Miyagi prefecture. (Courtesy Kyodo/Reuters) Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe drives a rice planting machine at a a paddy field in Sendai, Miyagi prefecture. (Courtesy Kyodo/Reuters)

Last week, ministerial negotiations on the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) between Japan and the United States ended abruptly after the two sides failed to reach an agreement on key sticking points, including the removal of tariffs on sensitive Japanese farm products. The failure of the talks disappointed both sides, including Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who has long upheld TPP as a fundamental component of his structural reform agenda. Read more »

The Failures of the ASEAN Economic Community

by Joshua Kurlantzick
jakarta-international-container-terminal A worker walks at the Jakarta international container terminal in Tanjung Priok port in this file photo from July 26, 2012. Southeast Asia has sought to overcome competing national interests and form a European Union-style economic community by 2015 (Supri/Courtesy: Reuters).

Next year, the long-awaited ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) will come into effect, welcomed surely by fanfare both from the organization and from all of the ten member states. Long promised by ASEAN countries but repeatedly delayed in its launch, the AEC is supposed to be a single market for all ten member states, similar in some respects to the early days of the European Union’s single market. In theory, the AEC would provide a major boost to intra-regional trade, which lags behind its potential, and also would help woo foreign investment region-wide. Read more »

India: Tough Talk and the Bali Trade Facilitation Agreement

by Alyssa Ayres
India's then-minister of commerce and industry, Anand Sharma (C), congratulates the director-general of the World Trade Organization (WTO), Roberto Azevedo (2nd R), after the closing ceremony of the ninth WTO Ministerial Conference in Bali on December 7, 2013 (Edgar Su/Courtesy: Reuters). India's then-minister of commerce and industry, Anand Sharma (C), congratulates the director-general of the World Trade Organization (WTO), Roberto Azevedo (2nd R), after the closing ceremony of the ninth WTO Ministerial Conference in Bali on December 7, 2013 (Edgar Su/Courtesy: Reuters).

Last week India’s top trade negotiators told the World Trade Organization (WTO) that India would not support the package of trade facilitation measures that had been agreed to last December at the Bali ministerial. Because adoption of these measures must be done by consensus among WTO members by July 31, India’s rejection of the agreement now stands to render moot the entire trade facilitation effort. New Delhi’s stance not only puts up a roadblock on global trade, but will effectively halt any efforts to envision a larger ambition for the U.S.-India economic relationship—which badly needs one—by signaling that India at present does not want to stand with the global free and open trading system. Read more »

All Roads Lead to Beijing

by Elizabeth C. Economy
China's President Xi Jinping reviews an honor guard before a meeting with Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff on the sidelines of the 6th BRICS summit at the Planalto Palace in Brasilia July 17, 2014. REUTERS/Sergio Moraes (BRAZIL - Tags: POLITICS MILITARY) China's President Xi Jinping reviews an honor guard on the sidelines of the 6th BRICS summit at the Planalto Palace in Brasilia on July 17, 2014. (Sergio Moraes/Courtesy Reuters)

This post is one of a three-part Asia Unbound series following a recent CFR trip to India and China. See related posts from my colleagues Alyssa Ayres and Daniel Markey. Read more »

Making Progress at the U.S.-China S&ED: Go Strategic or Stay Home

by Elizabeth C. Economy
(L-R) Chinese State Councilor Yang Jiechi, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, Chinese Vice Premier Wang Yang and U.S. Treasury Secretary Jack Lew leave after the U.S.-China Strategic and Economic Dialogue (S&ED) Joint Opening Session at the State Department in Washington July 10, 2013. (L-R) Chinese state councilor Yang Jiechi, U.S. secretary of state John Kerry, Chinese vice premier Wang Yang and U.S. treasury secretary Jack Lew leave after the U.S.-China Strategic and Economic Dialogue (S&ED) Joint Opening Session at the State Department in Washington on July 10, 2013. (Yuri Gripas/Courtesy Reuters)

As the full contingent of U.S. cabinet secretaries, other senior officials, and support staff prepare for the sixth round of the U.S.-China Strategic and Economic Dialogue (S&ED) (to be held on July 9-10 in Beijing), it is not unreasonable to ask whether all the fuss and muss is worth it. Despite all the focus on this bilateral relationship, it often appears that for every problem addressed, ten more mushroom in its place. In the weeks leading up to the S&ED, a plaintive cry can be heard emanating from DC: Are we getting it right? What more can we do? I have two answers in response: batten down the hatches and get ready for the long haul; or stay home. Read more »

Prime Minister Modi to Bhutan, the Land of the Thunder Dragon

by Alyssa Ayres
File photo: Prayer flags hang near the ParoTaktsang Palphug Buddhist monastery, also known as the Tiger's Nest, in Paro district, Bhutan on October 16, 2011 (Adrees Latif/Courtesy: Reuters). File photo: Prayer flags hang near the ParoTaktsang Palphug Buddhist monastery, also known as the Tiger's Nest, in Paro district, Bhutan on October 16, 2011 (Adrees Latif/Courtesy: Reuters).

Next week Prime Minister Narendra Modi will head to Bhutan, Land of the Thunder Dragon, on his first overseas visit, slated for June 14-15. There had been a great deal of speculation that his first visit abroad would be to East Asia, particularly to Japan, a country with which he developed a strong relationship as Gujarat chief minister. But the selection of Bhutan builds perfectly on Prime Minister Modi’s inaugural outreach to the South Asian region, and demonstrates an astute sense of the region’s critical importance to India’s economic dynamism and strategic strength. Read more »