U.S. presence in the Asia-Pacific region after TPP, RCEP

Containers from China and other Asian countries will be unloaded at the Port of Los Angeles as the trade war continues between China and the United States in Long Beach, California, on September 14, 2019. –

Mark Ralston | AFP | Getty Images

Singapore – The Biden administration is likely to have to rethink the future of U.S. economic leadership in the Asia-Pacific after two huge free trade agreements signed by countries in the region, according to a former foreign policy adviser.

The first of the two trade agreements is the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP): negotiated by the Obama administration but never approved by Congress. President Donald Trump subsequently withdrew the United States from the TPP in 2017, when the remaining 11 countries renegotiated and signed a comprehensive and progressive agreement on the Pacific Partnership or CPTPP a year later.

Recently, 15 countries, including China, Australia, Japan, South Korea, and the nations of Southeast Asia, have signed the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP): It is the world’s largest trading bloc, with 2.2 billion people and 26.2 trillion. dollar market. global emissions – about 30% of world GDP.

“So far, the incoming administration has not committed itself in any way to the future of the TPP,” Richard Fontaine, CEO of the New American Security Center, told CNBC’s “Street Signs Asia” on Tuesday. Fontaine was previously a foreign policy adviser to Senate John McCain and worked at the U.S. State Department.

He explained that President-elect Joe Biden and his administration are entering an era when the United States is part of neither the TPP nor the RCEP. “At least they need to rethink what the future of U.S. Asian economic leadership looks like,” he said.

Trade policy

According to Fontaine, a major change between the Trump government and the incoming Biden government would be the latter approach to multilateralism.

“The president-elect and his team found it difficult to say how they will work with their partners, allies and like-minded countries on key issues related to climate change and global health, as well as the pandemic, to China and every other country,” Fontaine said.

Trade, on the other hand, remains a complex issue that is the subject of domestic policy, he said. Although the Biden administration would never have imposed many of the tariffs Trump did, including U.S. taxes on China during the trade war, it will inherit these policies next year, Fontaine explained.

Biden and his team said they will review tariffs when they take office, and they can do so with U.S. allies and partners, with the potential to develop “something in common.” “

Maintaining or easing the tariffs imposed on China by the Trump government would “set the tone for U.S.-China relations in this (Biden) administration for a long time to come,” Fontaine said.

Experts have previously told CNBC that Biden will be constrained by the political environment and may not return to positions it held in China in the past, which it considered relatively weak.

So far, the Biden-Harris Transition Group has stated on its website that top priorities for the incoming administration include tackling the coronavirus epidemic, advancing efforts for U.S. economic recovery, and tackling racial equity and climate change.