CFR Presents

Asia Unbound

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

Posts by Category

Showing posts for "Trade"

The World’s Imminent Deglobalization?

by Joshua Kurlantzick
People attend a demonstration against the government’s proposed plan for increased immigration at Speakers' Corner in Singapore February 16, 2013. People attend a demonstration against the government’s proposed plan for increased immigration at Speakers' Corner in Singapore February 16, 2013 (Edgar Su/Courtesy Reuters).

On Saturday, 3,000 demonstrators turned out in Singapore—in one of the biggest protests in the country’s history—to protest the government’s new plan to increase the tiny nation-state’s immigrant population by nearly two million people by 2030. And who are this proposal’s greatest opponents? The Singaporean middle class, which has increasingly seen its political capital and purchasing power strangled by the influx of wealthy immigrants, mainly from China. Read more »

The Myanmar Mirage

by Joshua Kurlantzick
An employee stands behind a MasterCard logo during the launch of the international credit card issuer's first ATM transaction in Myanmar, in Yangon November 15, 2012. An employee stands behind a MasterCard logo during the launch of the international credit card issuer's first ATM transaction in Myanmar, in Yangon November 15, 2012 (Soe Zeya Tun/Courtesy Reuters).

In advance of President Obama’s historic visit to Yangon this week, the U.S. government announced Friday the easing of yet another round of sanctions against Myanmar. The latest suspension will allow for goods made in Myanmar to enter the U.S. market for the first time in nearly a decade.  Since the Obama administration first began lifting economic restrictions against the one-time pariah in April, Western companies have been clamoring to enter Myanmar —an enormous (60 million) market that, because it was essentially closed to Western investment for decades, could be a sizable opportunity. Its abundance of natural resources and its geographically strategic location, between China and India, further add to its allure. Read more »

Hillary Clinton Meeting With Thein Sein Major Success

by Joshua Kurlantzick
Myanmar's president Thein Sein addresses the sixty-seventh United Nations General Assembly at the UN Headquarters in New York. Myanmar's president Thein Sein addresses the sixty-seventh United Nations General Assembly at the UN Headquarters in New York (Lucas Jackson/Courtesy Reuters).

As reported yesterday, following a meeting with Myanmar president Thein Sein, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton announced that the United States would now be easing the American ban on imports from Myanmar, which will be enormously beneficial to the Myanmar economy. This follows a similar move by the European Union, which now has allowed Myanmar to join the Generalized System of Preferences scheme it has for poor countries to access the EU market.

Though the announcement was important, just as important was the fact that Clinton met with Thein Sein during his trip to the United States —the United Nations General Assembly period is packed with bilaterals, and it would not have been hard for her to skip one more bilateral—and publicly handed Myanmar a reward that reflected positively on President Thein Sein. Read more »

A New Twist on Chinese Foreign Policy: Beijing Mixing Business with Politics?

by Elizabeth C. Economy
Filipinos chant anti-China slogans as they march towards the Chinese consulate in Manila's Makati financial district on May 11, 2012. Filipinos chant anti-China slogans as they march towards the Chinese consulate in Manila's Makati financial district on May 11, 2012 (Erik de Castro / Courtesy Reuters).

One of the cardinal rules of Chinese diplomacy is that China doesn’t mix business with politics. The precept fits in nicely with the primacy that China places on sovereignty, respecting the right of a country—or at least the leaders of the moment—to determine how things ought to work. And, of course, it also provides Beijing with the opportunity to rationalize its lack of enthusiasm for tough foreign policy action in places such as Iran, Syria, Sudan, or Zimbabwe as a matter of principle. Read more »

Economics and Indian Strategy

by Evan A. Feigenbaum
Leaders of Sri Lanka, Myanmar, Bangladesh, India, Bhutan, Nepal, and Thailand pose for a picture at the second summit of the Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC) in New Delhi, November 13, 2008. (B Mathur / Courtesy Reuters) Leaders of Sri Lanka, Myanmar, Bangladesh, India, Bhutan, Nepal, and Thailand pose for a picture at the second summit of the Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC) in New Delhi, November 13, 2008. (B Mathur / Courtesy Reuters)
South Asia is among the least economically integrated regions of the world, in part because partition cleaved apart various natural economic communities. Regions, such as Bengal, which had been well integrated historically, suffered considerable economic ill effects. And post-1947 policies have only exacerbated the problem through tariffs, production restrictions, and various trade controls.

Actually, the lack of economic integration in South Asia is endemic. It’s not just a challenge for India and Pakistan but for many other countries in South Asia as well. Read more »

Guest Post: Taiwan and the TPP: Don’t Count Your Chickens

by Elizabeth Leader
AIT Chairman Raymond Burghardt greets Taiwan President Ma Ying-jeou at the Presidential Office in Taipei. AIT Chairman Raymond Burghardt greets Taiwan President Ma Ying-jeou at the Presidential Office in Taipei. (Central News Agency/Courtesy Reuters)

Following the recent reelection of Taiwan president Ma Ying-jeou, media outlets worldwide have speculated about the president’s economic posture in his second term: Will he continue to advance relations with the mainland, or shift his gaze outward toward Taiwan’s neighbors in the Pacific? Hence, it is no surprise that the announcement of President Ma’s intent to join the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPP) has been cast by the media as a hot button issue. Read more »

What to Expect in Asia in 2012

by Evan A. Feigenbaum

Traders stand near a screen showing the Indonesia Stock Exchange Composite Index during the first day of trading for 2012 in Jakarta January 2, 2012. Courtesy Reuters/Stringer.

It’s been a fascinating year for Asia. The region has continued to consolidate its role as the essential player driving global recovery. Developing Asia, including China, India, and the major ASEAN economies, maintained robust growth, in contrast to the advanced economies’ collective anemic growth over the same period.

But 2012 promises to be more fraught as domestic politics take command amid new challenges to growth.

Here are twelve trends I see coming for Asia in 2012—risks, opportunities, and emerging patterns that will shape Asia during the next twelve months, and beyond.

Read more »

Southeast Asia: What to Expect in 2012

by Joshua Kurlantzick
Women use sparklers to draw "2012" for photographers as they celebrate New Years Eve in Manila December 31, 2011.

Women use sparklers to draw "2012" for photographers as they celebrate New Years Eve in Manila December 31, 2011 (Romeo Ranoco/Courtesy Reuters).

The year 2011 saw some of the biggest political developments in Southeast Asia in decades. Burma finally seemed poised for real change, while Thailand continued to move closer to the brink of self-immolation, as political in-fighting worsened. The United States, China, and ASEAN nations continued to raise the stakes in the South China Sea, to a point where, now, it seems unlikely anyone can back off their claims and truly sit down at the table to negotiate some kind of agreement. Singapore had its most competitive election in generations, while in Malaysia massive street protests clearly have rattled the government. Even smaller states faced political turmoil: Papua New Guinea went for weeks with two prime ministers and the potential for civil strife, before the situation was resolved.

What, then, should we expect for an encore? Here are several trends to watch:

  1. China will bring back the charm. Over the past two years, Beijing has cost itself much of the gains it made in Southeast Asia in the late 1990s and early 2000s, when it appeared to be a good neighbor, trading partner, and investor. Through its belligerent approach to the South China Sea and, to some extent, the Mekong River, Beijing has scared many Southeast Asian nations enough that they have welcomed back a greater role for the United States in the region, even though their populations have not exactly become pro-American. Read more »

The KORUS-FTA Ratification Stalemate: Implications for Korea’s Election 2012

by Scott A. Snyder
Union workers from Korean Confederation of Trade Unions shout slogans during a demonstration in Seoul

Union workers from Korean Confederation of Trade Unions shout slogans during a demonstration in Seoul. Banners read: "Abolish the South Korea-U.S. FTA!" (red) and "Can't tolerate! Lee Myung-bak out!" (blue) November 13, 2011 (Jo Yong-hak/Courtesy Reuters).

South Korean president Lee Myung-bak showed admirable patience in the months he waited for the U.S. Congress to ratify the Korea-U.S. Free Trade Agreement and two other trade pacts on October 12. In the end, his visit to Washington was the action forcing event that broke the congressional stalemate. But the political ground in Seoul has shifted in recent months as represented by the outcome of October 26th Seoul mayoral bi-election, is posing new obstacles to Korean National Assembly ratification. In the first of a series of essays examining South Korean public opinion and implications for issues in U.S.-Korea relations, Kim Chi-wook analyzes the implications of this shift in South Korean public opinion from policies that emphasize growth to those that emphasize distribution.

Read more »

The United States in the New Asia … Revisited

by Evan A. Feigenbaum

For the next several days, President Obama is hosting leaders from around the Asia-Pacific region in Hawaii for the annual summit of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum. So this seemed like a good time to repost a Council on Foreign Relations special report on Asian regionalism that I co-wrote with my colleague, Bob Manning, in the run up to the 2009 meeting.

Our report, The United States in the New Asia, is two years old. But in my view, it’s still deeply relevant.

You can download the report here.

Some good things have happened since we wrote our paper in 2009. For one, the United States has joined the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) negotiations, and that is a decidedly good thing. There isn’t likely to be a successful Doha Round nor is another global trade round likely anytime soon. So TPP can fill in some of the gaps between global trade liberalization and bilateral and regional agreements. The United States has also—finally—completed the Korea-U.S. Free Trade Agreement (KORUS).

And yet the larger questions Bob and I raised about the United States and Asian regionalism remain important and mostly unanswered.

Read more »