The last two posts dealt with situations arising in the coming year, but not Asia-Pacific. Two thousand twenty-two rings in the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership or RCEP. Maybe, you didn’t notice. A 15 nation trade agreement that will govern trade between 2.3 billion people includes a who’s who in the Asia-Pacific area, including the Peoples Republic of China. The notable exception is the United States. What does this mean for influence in the region?
The RCEP is the successor to the US-sponsored Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). Trump withdrew the US from the Treaty, claiming it was unfair upon taking office. Everyone else found it fair and desirable, and they continued without us.
As I have written, this was a high point in the Obama administration handling the China problem. Initially negotiated by then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, it promised to bring those threatened by China together to provide alternative supply chains and trading partnerships. The hope was China would feel the pain of exclusion and be encouraged to adhere to trade norms and move towards an open society.
The Trump campaign’s chief economic advisers, Larry Kudlow and Steve Moore, longtime free-traders, backed TPP but could not dissuade the protectionist Trump. It never became a campaign issue because Hillary Clinton strangely abandoned her work rather than defend it. Nor did President Obama mount a rebuttal to Trump. The truth is Democrats beholden to protectionist unions always needed massive Republican votes to pass trade treaties.
While Trump rightly recognized the menace of China, his solution of imposing tariffs paid by our importers and direct negotiations was doomed to failure. We’re still heavily dependent on the Peoples Republic, and our friends concluded a trade treaty benefitting that nation. In the present pandemic, it is apparent to all how much better we’d be with a much more diversified supply chain centered on friendly countries rather than China.
Biden, who has had no problem reversing almost everything Trump did where possible, never mentions changing Trump’s self-defeating trade policies. Rejoining an Asian-Pacific trade treaty has never been seriously considered. As with Afghanistan, the only Trump policies he’s continued are the bad ones.
One doesn’t have to be a foreign policy expert to acknowledge we’d be better off with a galaxy of nations united in trade and common interest standing with us without China. Isolating that county while it’s hyper-aggressive and dangerous should be pursued just as we did with the old USSR. Amazingly, we have done the opposite.
It is becoming increasingly clear the defining term for the Biden Administration is incompetent. I’ve pointed out where at home, in Europe, Latin America, and now the Asia-Pacific area, conditions might lead to significant problems in ’22 and beyond. These will add to the fiascos in Afghanistan, the border, the Covid Pandemic, and inflation. Is there any reason to believe the new problems will be handled better than the others?
Coming from a background in business and finance, I’m amazed the administration isn’t making changes, especially in personnel. A company reporting 4 quarters of pathetic numbers would never face the financial press or investment bankers without changes already made or planned. Even among presidents, this can be true. Bill Clinton’s disastrous start resulted in even his wife Hillary being demoted from healthcare czar to ceremonial duties.
Given the mounting failures, how can this be? Besides an almost complete turnover of Vice-president’s staff, nobody has left this administration. With Kamala Harris’people, it appears to be a case of rats leaving a sinking ship rather than being fired for ineptitude.
It came to me this might be a sort of Reign of Terror Syndrome. There is a fear among those on a momentarily winning side that a person fired for failure might turn on others, with ultimately, everyone losing their heads. Firing a seasoned bureaucrat such as General Milley or Dr. Fauci could result in them turning on others to save their reputations. Anyone watching Dr. Fauci take down others will see the possibilities. Ask Dr. Scott Atlas. Better to leave other bumblers alone, lest they expose your flaws. Chief of staff Ron Klain is so inept his tweet about going around congrees was cited in the Supreme Court and will help sink the administration covid mandate. What tales could he tell if Biden fires him? Even Maximilien Robespierre, president of the National Convention, was arrested and executed after the revolutionaries turned on each other.
This is only a theory, but how else do you explain the continuing administration disarray? Maybe you have an explanation. With the road likely to get rougher, something needs to change, but will it?