Trade, Multi-Polarity and the Asia Pacific

On February 26 Asia Society partnered with Nixon Peabody and the National Center for APEC for an off-the-record discussion with Wendy Cutler, Vice President and Managing Director of Asia Society Policy Institute’s (ASPI) Washington, D.C. office and former Acting Deputy of the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative. The event also featured Alison Mann, Director-General of the Asia Pacific Regional Integration Division, Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade, New Zealand; Eduardo Pedrosa, Secretary General of Pacific Economic Cooperation Council; and Jian Tan, Deputy Director-General of the Department of International Economic Affairs, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, P.R.C. Robert Kapp, the former President of U.S.-China Business Council, moderated the discussion.

Burgeoning regional and bilateral trade agreements that today span across the Asia-Pacific have created a “noodle bowl effect,” which includes the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP). All members expressed the potential for regional and bilateral trade agreements to not only coexist with but also strengthen multilateral trade agreements like the World Trade Organization. Panelists described how these new trading systems reflect the reality of our multi-polar world, divergent interests of emerging and developed economies, regional diversity and global supply chains. Everyone also agreed that to pit the TPP against the RCEP as though it were borne out of geopolitical competition between the U.S and China is misleading and a “media creation.” Each described the RCEP as ASEAN’s vehicle for greater trade and regulatory consolidation and expressed hope that RCEP negotiations would, indeed, conclude by year’s end and that its standards would move as close as possible to the TPP.

Read more about about Wendy Cutler here.