Free trade deal reveals aspirations of Asia-Pacific

Source:Global Times Published: 2015-6-18 0:18:02

China signed a free trade agreement (FTA) with Australia on Wednesday after 10 years of negotiations. Its significance will reach many countries and regions. This is China's second such deal with a US ally in the Asia-Pacific region, following the FTA Beijing inked with Seoul earlier in June. 

The two deals set a good model for China's neighboring countries, and may herald a trend of free trade deals with China. They strongly impress on people that in the 21st Century, demands for economic prosperity will overtake those for national security.

In the meantime, US President Barack Obama is confronted by his own Democratic Party in pushing forward the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), a key component of the US rebalance to Asia. As Democrats have blocked the critical fast-track authority for TPP negotiations on the grounds that the deal would hurt US manufacturing industry, the Republicans proposed Tuesday to put off the vote on the fast-track measure till late July.

This postponement has conspicuously disappointed Japan, the only US ally in the region that hasn't initiated a FTA with China, though its Economy Minister Akira Amari said Wednesday that he was neither optimistic nor excessively pessimistic on the TPP's outlook. Some policy wonks hold that if the 12-nation trade pact fails, countries like Japan and Vietnam will likely turn to other economic programs, which may cripple the US rebalance to Asia.

It's not unusual to see US allies in the Asia-Pacific counting on Washington for security and on China for economic development. However, the possibilities of security-related clashes in the world are decreasing in general while economic competition outshines everything else.

China's free trade deals with Australia and South Korea, combined with Western countries' active participation in founding the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, demonstrate that the shift in the world's focus to the economic sector is happening much faster than expected. As Australia and South Korea are also engaged in TPP negotiations, it means different trade systems do not necessarily reject each other.

Many US observers are worried that without the TPP, China will step in to take over the plentiful opportunities. But TPP frustration on Capitol Hill shows the US is only interested in sending military equipment to the region, not sharing the benefits. It has become clear what Asian-Pacific countries are now striving for.

Posted in: Observer

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