Why the US struggles against Japan in TPP negotiations

US Trade Representative Michael Froman speaks to reporters while Japanese Economy Minister Akira Amari looks on during a press conference at the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) Ministerial Meeting in Singapore, 20 May 2014. Trade ministers from 12 nations completed a two-day Ministerial meeting in Singapore targeted at creating a 12-nation trade pact in the Asian-Pacific region. (Photo: AAP).

Author: Aurelia George Mulgan, UNSW Canberra

Real progress in Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) negotiations has stalled until Japan and the United States reach some kind of basic trade agreement — which is still elusive even after numerous rounds of talks. The United States has been pressuring Japan to make concessions in key areas such as agriculture.

It is well known that current TPP negotiations are running on two separate tracks: the plurilateral track in which all 12 countries are participating and the bilateral track which amounts to a series of bilateral deals being negotiated on the side. Read more…

Building Silk Roads for the 21st century

View of an elevated highway among mountains at sunrise in Chongqing, China, 19 July 2014. From 1992 to 2011 China spent 8.5 per cent of GDP on infrastructure. (Photo: AAP).

Author: Pradumna B. Rana, RSIS

China’s emergence as the ‘factory of the world’, based on its focus on exporting labour-intensive manufactures, is well-known. Less well-known is the role that infrastructure played in this strategy.

From 1992 to 2011 China spent 8.5 per cent of GDP on infrastructure, much more than the developing country average of 2–4 per cent, according to a 2013 McKinsey Global Institute report. And, from 1992 to 2007, China spent US$120 billion on building 35,000 kilometres of highways. Read more…

It’s do or die for the TPP

US President Barack Obama speaks to US Trade Representative Ron Kirk during a meeting with TPP leaders at the APEC summit in Honolulu, Hawaii, 12 November 2011. Those talks failed to finalise negotiations on the partnership before a previous deadline of 2012. (Photo: AAP)

Author: Claude Barfield, AEI

Heading into the fifth year of intense negotiations (with twenty-odd formal sessions and countless informal side meetings), the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement will almost certainly succeed — or fail — over the next six months. Read more…

Will Indonesia’s new president turn the tide on resource nationalism?

Freeport security personnel look on at the Freeport McMoRan's Grasberg mining complex, one of the world's biggest gold and copper mines, located in Indonesia's remote eastern Papua province, 16 August 2013. After an export ban last year, Freeport recently agreed to pay high royalties and taxes, and concede divestment provisions. (Photo: AAP)

Author: Eve Warburton, ANU

Resource management is a pressing policy problem in Indonesia, but it is also ripe for nationalist grandstanding. In the lead up to Indonesia’s recent elections, both presidential candidates deployed the mantra of energy independence and resource sovereignty in their campaigns.

The victor, Joko Widodo (Jokowi), used far less incendiary language than his competitor, Prabowo Subianto. But both espoused a nationalist vision for the mining and energy sectors Read more…

India refuses to play ball on trade agreement

Indian workers sit near sacks of grain at a wholesale warehouse in Mumbai, India, 2 September 2013. India refused to sign the Trade Facilitation Agreement agreed upon by the WTO in Bali because it was not happy with insufficient progress on issues like the stockpiling of grain. (Photo: AAP)

Authors: Geethanjali Nataraj and Richa Sekhani, Observer Research Foundation

India has played the spoiler by refusing to sign the global agreement on trade facilitation agreed at the Bali Ministerial of the World Trade Organisation in December 2013. The signing of the agreement would have resulted in the first global trade reform agreement in the history of the WTO. Read more…

South Korea should keep calm and carry on through EU trade squall

A view of the Busan Container Terminal in Busan Port, South Korea, 11 July 2014. (Photo: AAP).

Author: Judith Cherry, University of Sheffield

The EU–South Korea free trade agreement (FTA) — implemented on 1 July 2011 — was South Korea’s seventh FTA and the EU’s first trade deal with an Asian country. At the time, analysts forecast that both sides stood to gain economically, with South Korea obtaining two-thirds of the total gains from an EU–South Korea FTA.

But, today, the benefits of the FTA for South Korea are still yet to be realised. Read more…

G20 must shape a new world trade regime

The G20 meeting at the IMF/World Bank Spring Meetings 11 April 2014 at the IMF Headquarters in Washington, DC. (Photo: AAP).

Authors: Mari Pangestu and David Nellor, Indonesia

Over the past decade global trade and investment discussions have moved far away from the formal global trade regime. The multilateral system has been mired in the Doha Development Round — defined by a single undertaking and a fixed agenda that is increasingly out-of-date. In the meantime, most countries have devoted their energies to regional trade and investment discussions. Read more…

India looks east to RCEP for economic growth

Billboard of an aircraft on final approach outside the venue of the  India-ASEAN Business Fair and Business Conclave in New Delhi, (Photo: AAP).

Author: Ganeshan Wignaraja, ADBI

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi is set to visit Japan after the budget session of parliament in mid-August 2014 for his first state visit outside South Asia. Reinvigorating economic ties with Japan and the rest of East Asia presents a critical opportunity for the Modi Government to foster new business opportunities and address India’s recent growth slowdown. By looking to East Asia, business and government can work together to foster economic gains for India. Read more…

We must improve trade connectivity in South Asia

Indian passengers travel on a train in Amritsar on 20 June 2014. (Photo: AAP).

Authors: Bipul Chatterjee and Joseph George, CUTS International

South Asian countries trade with each other far less than they could. The high cost of doing trade in the region, among the highest in the world, is the prime deterrent of trade among South Asian countries. An urgent upgrade of transport connectivity is needed in order to revitalise regional trade and decrease costs.

But there is more to trade connectivity than usually thought, and, in South Asia, improvement in transport connectivity alone may not be enough to spur a rise in trade volume. Read more…

Asia’s economic strategy beyond free trade agreements

This photo shows a bustling Singapore port. The 5th RCEP negotiation round will be held on 23-27 June 2014 in Singapore. RCEP, unlike the TPP, involves all Asia's major economies. (Photo: Jake/Flickr).

Author: Peter Drysdale, Editor, East Asia Forum

The launch of negotiations on the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) (in APEC’s backyard led by the United States) and (later) the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) (under the umbrella of ASEAN) is dominating thinking about regional integration. These agreements are designed in part to leverage value out of the plethora of bilateral free trade agreements (FTAs) negotiated over the past 15 years. Read more…

Mega-regionals and the mega-mess

Japan's Economy Minister Akira Amari, US Trade Representative Michael Froman and Singapore's Minister for Trade and Industry Lim Hng Kiang adjust their glasses and headphones during a TPP meeting in Singapore, 20 May 2014. More mega-regionals means the world trade system fragments rather than tangles like spaghetti. (Photo: AAP).

Author: Jayant Menon, ADB

The rise of mega-regionals — such as the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP)and the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP)— suggests that the world trade system is starting to appear more like a fragmented jigsaw puzzle than a spaghetti bowl.

How can we resolve this growing mess and buttress the global regime? Read more…

Smoke and mirrors in trade disputes will harm public health

Some worry that the Trans-Pacific Partnership will make public health measures, like the plain packaging of cigarettes, liable to be challenged by foreign companies. (Photo: AAP).

Author: Matthew Rimmer, ANU

The 2014 World Cancer Report, issued by the World Health Organisation (WHO), indicates that the number of new cancer cases has reached an all-time high. On the 19 May 2014, Dr Margaret Chan, the Director-General of the WHO, gave a stirring speech to the 67th Health Assembly on the heavy health burden associated with cancer. Chan was particularly interested in public health measures designed to combat the global tobacco epidemic. Read more…

Obama gets down to business in Malaysia

President Barack Obama and Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak smile as they participate in a joint news conference in Putrajaya, Malaysia. (Photo: AAP).

Author: Shankaran Nambiar, MIER

President Obama’s two-day visit to Malaysia is a feather in Prime Minister Najib’s cap. But it is a decoration that carries certain obligations given the implications of what Obama has conveyed.

The decision to include Malaysia as part of Obama’s Asia tour was strategically timed since the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement is still being hotly debated there. Read more…

A new crisis for Asia’s emerging economies?

Chinese migrant worker labours at the construction site of a real estate project in Shandong province, China on 1 May 2014. (Photo: AAP)

Author: Hiro Ito, Portland State University

Countries around the globe have been nervously paying attention to the world’s advanced economies. Many have still not been able to embark on a sustainable path of recovery since the global financial crisis.

The United States, the euro zone, the United Kingdom and Japan essentially exhausted conventional monetary policy measures by guiding their policy interest rates to almost zero. Read more…

Deepening India’s export basket

Chinese Premier Li Keqiang waves at the media in front of Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh during his ceremonial reception in New Delhi last year. (Photo: AAP).

Author: Keya Chaturvedi, NUS

As India elects a new government in the summer of 2014, many analysts have vociferously discussed the incumbent government’s domestic economic management. Yet less attention has been paid to India’s external economic engagement. Read more…