Vietnam’s economy steady as it grows

A bicycle stands in rice fields in Vietnam. (Photo: AAP).

Author: Suiwah Leung, ANU

The Vietnamese economy has stabilised but is growing below trend. In 2014, the economy relied principally on manufactured exports. The government seems to be pushing on with structural reforms of state-owned enterprises (SOEs) and the banking sector. But it remains to be seen whether its current efforts will be sufficient to restore economic growth in time for the country to transform itself into a high-income industrialised economy in the longer-term future. Read more…

Is bigger better for ASEAN in a mega-regional world?

This photo shows a view of a container port in Singapore. Singapore is part of negotiations in both RCEP and the TPP, two mega-regional deals involving ASEAN countries. (Photo: AAP)

Author: Razeen Sally, NUS

Big-block trade agreements or ‘mega-regionals’, revolving around one or more major powers, are the latest trend in trade policy negotiations. ASEAN is involved in two: the American-led Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and the Chinese-led Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP). Read more…

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…

Economic community key to ASEAN’s centrality

ASEAN leaders pose for the group photo after the opening ceremony of the 24th ASEAN Summit in Naypyidaw, Myanmar, 11 May 2014. ASEAN has become a central feature of Asian regional architecture, but tensions over the South China Sea are threatening to cause geopolitical upheaval (Photo: AAP).

Author: Peter Drysdale, Editor, East Asia Forum

Over the past few days ASEAN leaders met in Naypyidaw, the capital of Myanmar, for the first time ever at their 24th summit. Against what were once considered long odds, ASEAN has become a central feature of Asian regional architecture. It is a bulwark of regional stability and increasing prosperity in Southeast Asia and a pivotal element in the geopolitics of the whole Asian region. Read more…

Obama visit fails to strengthen US–Japan trust

President Barack Obama and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe shake hands at the conclusion of their joint news conference at the Akasaka State Guest House in Tokyo, 24 April 2014. (Photo: AAP)

Author: Kazuhiko Togo, Kyoto Sangyo University

President Obama’s visit to Japan from April 23-25 was important for US-Japan alliance relations.

But did the visit genuinely strengthen trust between Japan and the United States? A number of outstanding problems indicates that there is room for a great deal of improvement. Read more…

Obama’s statement on the Senkakus/Diaoyus: why so bold?

President Barack Obama and Prime Minister Shinzo Abe hold a joint press conference at Akasaka Palace in Tokyo, Japan, April 2014. Obama declared that the Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands are covered under Article 5 of the Japan–US security treaty. (Official White House Photo by Chuck Kennedy).

Author: Bhubhindar Singh, RSIS

The main talking point of President Barack Obama’s visit to Japan on 23–24 April was his declaration that the Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands are covered under Article 5 of the Japan–US security treaty. Article 5 of the treaty states the two countries will act to meet the common danger of an attack against ‘territories under the administration of Japan’. Read more…

Can Abe’s third arrow pierce Japan’s agricultural armour?

Japanese farmers picking tea leaves under the summit of Mount Fuji in Shizuoka province, Japan. (Photo: AAP).

Author: Aurelia George Mulgan, UNSW Canberra

The third arrow of Abenomics (economic growth through structural reform) is flying neither high nor fast in Japan’s agricultural sector. The Abe administration’s agricultural reform program falls far short of what is needed for structural reform of the farm industry. This has implications for agricultural trade policy and for the kind of concessions that Japan will be prepared to make in international trade negotiations, both bilateral and plurilateral, such as the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). Read more…

Charting a course for Asian integration and security

Delegates from 16 Asia Pacific nations pose for photos in Bandar Seri Begawan, Brunei, on 9 May 2013, prior to the first round of negotiations of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership. (Photo: AAP).

Author: Peter Drysdale, Editor, East Asia Forum

This week another round of TPP negotiations is taking place in Singapore. USTR Michael Froman is talking up protections for US vested interests at home in order to obtain Congressional authority to complete the negotiations, rather than free trade across the region. The package on the table in TPP still has very little in it for countries like Australia, especially if the Australia-Japan trade deal is pulled off separately. Read more…

Land of the free still trapped in political turmoil

Thai Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra answers questions from the press after voting at a polling station in Bangkok on February 2, 2014. (Photo: AAP).

Author: Pisit Leeahtam, Chiang Mai University

Thailand’s economy began 2013 with initial forecasts for yearly growth ranging between 4.5 per cent and 5.5 per cent. The country had recovered from the 2011 flooding and the stock market had enjoyed a sharp rise since 2012. External demand was expected to improve thanks to signs of an upturn in the United States and Japan. General sentiments were high, although concern over domestic consumption grew out of rising household debt. Read more…

How should the world deal with Chinese reforms?

A man walk past a branch of the Bank of Shanghai in Nanjing, China, 11 April 2013. The Bank of Shanghai is preparing to set up a financial leasing company in the China (Shanghai) Pilot Free Trade Zone. (Photo: AAP).

Author: Peter Drysdale, Editor, East Asia Forum

The liturgy in the West is that so long as China becomes a responsible stakeholder in the international economic system — conforming to the western created rules and norms — its accommodation into the global economy is guaranteed. The same liturgy used to be cited when Japan was on the make.

Were it only so simple. Read more…

IMF reform and isolationism in the US Congress

International Monetary Fund Managing Director Christine Lagarde and U.S. President Barack Obama arrive for the plenary session of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in 2011 in Kapolei, Hawaii. (Photo: AAP).

Author: Jeffrey Frankel, Harvard University

A long-awaited reform of the International Monetary Fund has now been carelessly blocked by the US Congress. This decision is just the latest in a series of self-inflicted blows since the turn of the century that have needlessly undermined the claim of the United States to global leadership. Read more…

China and the future of Asia Pacific trade

US President Barack Obama and Chinese President Xi Jinping at a bilateral meeting at the Annenberg Retreat at Sunnylands in Rancho Mirage, California, on 7 June, 2013. (Photo: AAP).

Author: Peter Drysdale, Editor, East Asia Forum

The backbone of stability and amity in Asia and the Pacific is an open economic system, which has encouraged deep trade and investment interdependence within the region, and the United States security umbrella that provides reassurance to US allies and partners as well as those, like China, outside the alliance framework against a resurgence of military or political adventurism. Read more…

Averting economic cold war

US President Barack Obama presents Chinese President Xi Jinping with a gift of an inscribed redwood park bench at the Annenberg Retreat at Sunnylands in Rancho Mirage, California, 8 June, 2013. (Photo: White House/Pete Souza).

Author: Yiping Huang, Peking University and ANU

When the first G20 summit was held at the end of 2008 in Washington DC, many believed that the time had finally come for developed and developing countries to work together to reconfigure the international economic architecture. Some even suggested that the US and China formally adopt the G2 mechanism to jointly manage global affairs. Read more…

Stepping up for free trade in the US

US President Barack Obama meets with Trade Representative Michael Froman in the Oval Office of the White House, Washington DC, 16 December, 2013. (Photo: AAP).

Author: Claude Barfield, American Enterprise Institute

In the modern era, US Republicans have espoused free trade — and FTAs — as an extension of their domestic goals to foster vigorous market competition and limit government intervention on behalf of favoured protectionist interests. To carry forward that tradition, even in the face of the current bitter partisan divide, Republicans in Congress must take the lead in granting President Obama the authority to conclude new FTAs and get an expeditious decision on the agreements from Congress. Read more…

Vietnam’s foreign policy tightrope

Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung attends the 11th ASEAN Summit as part of the 23rd Summit of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) in Bandar Seri Begawan on 10 October, 2013. (Photo: AAP)

Author: Dennis C McCornac, Loyola University Maryland

Vietnam’s new foreign policy approach, which some analysts have labelled ‘more friends, fewer enemies’, reflects its precarious position as a bird on the wire caught between China and the United States. Read more…