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Zhao Minghao: China`s role uncertain after Trump vows to quit TPP


Source:    Published: 2016-11-22

Donald Trump [Xinhua file photo]

China`s role in the global free trade process is believed to be uncertain after U.S. President-elect Donald Trump vowed to withdraw from the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), a global trade pact, earlier today.

Trump delivered a video revealing actions he would take on his first day in the White House next year, including withdrawing the U.S. from the TPP. The massive trade pact was agreed upon last year by 12 Asia-Pacific countries, including Japan and Australia. China was excluded from the pact, which proposed another trade agreement in the area, the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP).

Zhao Minghao, a researcher with the Chongyang Institute for Financial Studies of Renmin University, said the "potential death" of the TPP would have a "double-edge effect" on China. "On the one hand, many (Chinese) people would be happy to see the RCEP gain more momentum. But on the other hand, we have to be aware of the potential danger or risks of the trade agreement environment in this region," he said during a seminar titled "The Shifting Global Economic and Political Landscape: Integration or Fragmentation," hosted by the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences in Beijing.

During the ongoing Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit in Peru, China has reaffirmed its pledge to uphold free trade and renewed calls for building a Free Trade Area of the Asia Pacific.

Ian Bremmer, a famous U.S. political scientist, told after the seminar on Tuesday that it was "sad" that the pact failed. He also said that the overall U.S. "Pivot to Asia" strategy is "basically dead with a Trump presidency; it was already getting weaker towards the end of the Obama administration." "Pivot to Asia" is a broad-based U.S. strategy in Asia proposed by the Obama administration, including various fronts such as trade and security.

"American ability to project influence and inspire confidence within its allies is taking a very significant hit over the course of the past decade or decade and a half, and this election in particular is going to do very significant damage to that," he added.

Some experts have called for China to take a leadership role in the global free trade process, which Bremmer believed will be difficult to materialize.

"China will increase its role in building out some road architecture most regionally, and also build some infrastructure, but China as a major power is really narrowly economic in the way it`s projecting itself," he said, adding that China is not the biggest power in military, diplomatic or soft power, and that the country has a lot to deal with within its own borders.

Where is Trump`s China policy headed?

This is the third week after Trump`s win in the U.S. presidential election, the meaning of which has yet to sink in. China experts and pundits are debating what Trump`s policy will be towards the world`s second largest economy, as he has said during his campaign that he would name China a currency manipulator and impose a 45 percent tax on Chinese exports to the U.S.

Bremmer said that relations between U.S. and China are "uncertain" and can go "either-way."

"The biggest risk is if Trump decides to actually villanize China," Bremmer said. "If an intemperate, inexperienced Trump decides he wants to use China as an enemy, that could be dangerous for the relation between the two countries."

Bremmer said that there is recognition that China and the U.S. need each other economically, but "there can be pressure on industrial espionage, on intellectual property, and many other things.

Commenting on Trump`s potential isolationist stance in global affairs and China`s increasing involvement in the world, Bremmer said, "One of the pieces of optimism is that China is becoming more of a status quo-esque power, and I believe that over the medium-term that role and willingness of China to become a responsible stakeholder as it defines itself is actually a quite constructive one, and one that the U.S. and Europe will be increasingly able to work with."

Key Words: US   Trump   TPP  

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