Pacific forum sticks to free-trade gospel despite Trump

Pacific forum sticks to free-trade gospel despite Trump

U.S. President Donald Trump will be pushing for India's membership to the 21 member Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation ( APEC ) early next week when Prime Minister Modi and President Trump will be at the APEC summit in Manila, according to Dennis Wilder, Former high ranking Central Intelligence Agency expert on China and who is now professor of Asian Studies at the Georgetown University in Washington, DC.

Those trade talks took place on the sidelines of APEC summitry: ceremonial arrivals in bright tailored shirts to a gala banquet, a closed-door retreat and scores of bilateral meetings between the 21 leaders attending the event in this coastal resort city.

Host Vietnamese President Tran Dai Quang said the unfolding world security and economic and social transition challenged the momentum of trade and growth recovery.

The TPP discussions in Vietnam centered around suspending some parts of the agreement in a bid to move forward without America's involvement.

"What we've been able to achieve is to preserve market access in Japan, we've been able to improve the progressive elements and we've also been able to suspend key sections like intellectual property which our Canadian stakeholders thought would have an impact on innovation", Champagne said late Friday in an interview in Vietnam. "Indo- Pacific" is the new geopolitical word game that is being played out by the USA lately.

Partly to counter China's growing dominance in Asia, Japan had been lobbying hard for the TPP pact, which aims to eliminate tariffs on industrial and farm products across the 11-nation bloc whose trade totaled $356 billion past year.

Describing the Indian and Pacific Oceans as a "single strategic arena", Tillerson went further as he described India and the United States as "bookends" within that region. "We have strong and growing ties with India".

"Behind Indo-Pacific you have Japan's economic support, India's development speed and Australia's fears of China, these are all strategic realities".

Asked if the new policy was aimed at containing China's rise, Mr Wilder said "certainly not" and instead emphasised the importance of India - which views China as a political rival and potential military threat - to USA security and prosperity. Canada, which had held out for a day on signing onto the agreement, said it had won some desired concessions while warning that work is needed to reach a full deal. In addition to strengthening ties to our traditional Asian allies, the president could start by clearly stating support for cooperative economic institutions like the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum.

There was no immediate word on Canada's stance. Tokyo recently backed New Delhi during India's border stand-off with China. The White House is very clear this is not a containment strategy, but it is a competitive strategy. "It's not a containment strategy, because there is a substantial amount of trade that China does with the USA and also with India".

When Trump's White House issued a statement after the U.S. Who is containing China? The president instead offered the region a tepid "renewed partnership".

The president - who pulled the United States out of the Pacific Rim trade pact known as the Trans-Pacific Partnership - said the USA would no longer join "large agreements that tie our hands, surrender our sovereignty and make meaningful enforcement practically impossible".

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