Dueling trade agreements at ASEAN

From the sidelines of the ASEAN-East Asia Summit, a deadline has been announced for  a key trade agreement aimed at extending a “rules based” order through the growing Asian region.

One one side, the US-led Trans-Pacific Partnership, involving potentially all the major Asian economies save the biggest, China’s.

On the other side, the China-centric Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership, first tabled in September, aimed at the further integration of Asian economies. Very early days for this one.

The Lowy Institute describes the differences like this:

So the contest is between the Asian future imagined by the lawyers and lobbyists in Washington against Asia’s mandarins and the moguls.

In as much as directed trade becomes a tool of foreign policy, we are likely to see competing trade blocs. This isn’t NATO and the Warsaw Pact, rather NATO combined with NAFTA. This I suspect is a feature of coming years.

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