But we cannot take this bright future for granted. Growth in Asia faces increasing headwinds. Nationalism and protectionism are on the rise across the region. Challenges to US-led institutions, rules and norms threaten America’s security and economic opportunity.
The United States benefits from a cooperative US-China relationship, but this cannot be sustained if it does not advance the interests of both countries. Even while expanding cooperation, Washington must be willing to challenge Beijing where it seeks to undermine the rules-based order or when its actions threaten US interests.
In the face of these opportunities and challenges, the Trump administration can — and must –reassert US leadership in the Asia Pacific. Job one is to strengthen the foundations of our own economy, through tax and regulatory reform, infrastructure investment, better education and training and more spending on basic research. Economic muscle at home is of profound importance to Asia, which equates economic strength with security and the projection of power.
The administration should then build on the solid strategic foundations of our involvement in the Asia Pacific that have guided the past eight US administrations. A strong security presence reinforced with robust investment in a rules-based regional economic order and support for democratic values remains the best way to advance American interests.
The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) was designed to promote America’s vision of freer and fairer trade and investment in the Asia Pacific. A successful agreement would greatly increase access for US goods and services to the world’s most dynamic markets, while strengthening rules in critical areas such as ensuring an open internet, protecting intellectual property and limiting the role of the state in the marketplace.
We urge the administration to use the opportunity of withdrawal to meet with our TPP partners, outline areas of concern and devise a negotiating agenda to rectify its deficiencies.
A key finding of our report was that a successful strategy requires Washington to work more closely with our treaty allies in the region, particularly Japan, South Korea and Australia, as well as partners such as India and Singapore. The administration must also coordinate closely with the US private sector. And it must develop effective messages that explain the importance of the Asia Pacific to the American people.
Implementing this kind of strategy is complicated by the popular preference to rebuild at home rather than lead abroad. But this is a false dilemma: America’s domestic prosperity is inextricably linked to our international leadership. A vacuum of US leadership in Asia filled by less benevolent players would take decades to reverse — and at a huge economic cost by way of lost markets and legitimacy.
Through smart and strategic economic policy, the incoming administration has the opportunity to build a firm foundation for America’s Pacific century. It should seize the chance.
26 January 2017 | 11:15 pm
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