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Advancing the Regional Trade Order in East Asia with a Less Engaged United States
Published August 3, 2018
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In the aftermath of Donald Trump’s election and immediate pullout from the TPP, a scramble ensued over how to proceed with constructing a regional trade order centered on East Asia. For China this brought closer scrutiny of its pursuit of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). In the case of Japan, questions followed about what to do with the residue of TPP. Others, notably countries in Southeast Asia, were left contemplating the balance between eastern exclusive regionalism and the western presence in regionalism. In the background were efforts in South Asia aimed at advancing economic integration with East Asia. A kind of free-for-all was in progress without the moorings that had been lost after the paradigm of competition between a U.S.-led TPP and a China hub-and-spokes BRI no longer was guiding the strategic calculations of Asian countries. Then, in March 2018 came Trump’s disruptive tariffs, threatening to set a trade war in motion.

Four chapters explore the challenge of advancing a regional trade order in East Asia in the new circumstances of 2017-18. Tu Xinquan in Chapter 10 questions whether BRI is a path toward regionalism, delving deeply into the Chinese strategy for BRI. T.J. Pempel follows in Chapter 11 by exploring Japan’s thinking about TPP and the process of refocusing on TPP- 11 following the U.S. withdrawal. Chapter 12 by Sanchita Basu Das offers a hopeful ASEAN perspective on economic regionalism. Finally, in Chapter 13 Pradumna Bickram Rana traces thinking about re-energizing economic integration between South Asia and East Asia. With no finality to the RCEP talks and the recently concluded TPP-11 pact still taking shape and Trump’s “America First” trade policy casting a dark shadow, we aim to capture signs of a new trade order at a time of flux.

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