Asia Pacific Peeve

US President Barack Obama speaks (C) during a meeting with leaders from the Trans-Pacific Partnership at the US Embassy in Beijing on November 10, 2014 in Beijing. From left: US Trade Representative Mike Froman, Obama, and Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong. Top leaders and ministers of the 21-member APEC grouping are meeting in Beijing from November 7 to 11. AFP PHOTO/Mandel NGAN        (Photo credit should read MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images)

US President Barack Obama speaks (C) during a meeting with leaders from the Trans-Pacific Partnership at the US Embassy in Beijing on November 10, 2014 in Beijing. From left: US Trade Representative Mike Froman, Obama, and Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong. Top leaders and ministers of the 21-member APEC grouping are meeting in Beijing from November 7 to 11. AFP PHOTO/Mandel NGAN (Photo credit should read MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images)

Recently China launched an Investment bank AIIB which is being considered a threat to American role of World economic system Underwriter and a rival to IMF and World Bank. (Both under the American stewardship) President Barak Hussain Obama, during his first term, launched a foreign policy initiative Asia Pivot. This initiative had an economic dimension also which has not fared well. Reason being that American investment was mainly on post war reconstruction projects whereas those of Asian countries mainly in power projection capabilities. American premature withdrawal from Iraq and Afghanistan has also damaged its credibility of commitment to Asia pacific region. America views China in bipolar cold-war-divided-world perspective which needs to be recalibrated according to the changed politico-economic dynamics.  Other countries of Asia Pacific should feel at home in having good relations with America and China at the same time. In Asia Pacific Pivot it was well recognized that due to major shift in Global Geopolitical dynamism major share of political and economic activities in 21st Century would be written in Asia Pacific region. These factors therefore, should be bed-rock of TPP (Trans Pacific Partnership) initiative as well. TPP was also launched during his first term and has achieved, across the board, successes in trade talks with participating countries. Obama is now seeking a fast track legislation authority from the Law makers. (Previously known as TPA-Trade Promotion Authority) If approved will give president an authority to negotiate trade deals with partner countries and present them to the congress for up or down vote. Law-makers however, would not be able to introduce any amendment. The main thrust of TPP is to keep China from its free trade regime which would prove to be extremely counter-productive. China’s launch of AIIB may take away the American role of world economic leadership. More so, should the Dollar be replaced as the world currency as per AIIB charter. It would inflict immense damage to American Economy. Saddam Hussain was punished for contemplating similar initiative; necessitated by sustained oil export embargo, which literally crippled Iraq’s economy. China, on the other hand, is already word # 1 economic-power in terms of balance-sheet in comparison to that of USA therefore, would be hard to take on. Domestically TPP is facing a tough challenge from liberal democrats and labor union representatives.  Their concern is that trade pacts may hurt US workers and further widened the income gap as did the previous free trade deals. The biggest Free Trade pact so far has been NAFTA covering 440 million people (US, Canada, Mexico) and touching a bench mark of 17 Trillion Dollars trade, supporting around 5 million jobs in USA only. A bipartisan group of law makers has therefore ramped up the pressure to include enforceable provisions against currency manipulation in the trade agreements to help boost the American exports Competitiveness and easy passage of the   trade agreements.  Obama administration and some leading economists however, have argued that it would be Counter-Productive as the currency value manipulation is best monitored by G20, G7 & IMF.

China’s AIIB (Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank) is being launched with a huge capital of 100 billion Dollars, posing a direct threat to American economic supremacy, to IMF and World Bank. It is also posing a threat to ADB (Asian Development Bank– under the Japanese stewardship). AIIB is being participated by 57 countries. Some of the participating countries, despite strong American advice not to, are close American allies. France, Germany and Britain are few of such staunch allies. AIIB is believed to cater to 1/3rd of world trade by 2020 and about 40 % of Global activity by 2030.

China is expanding its influence in Africa, Asia and Latin America–once considered to be American backyard. In Latin America it has invested 119 billion Dollars since 2005 with fewer strings attached in comparison to IMF and World Bank loaning regimen. It has loaned 56b to Venezuela, 22b to Brazil and 19b to Argentina. Whereas IDB (Inter American Development Bank), US import Export Bank and World Bank combined have loaned only 75 billion in 10 years.  Asia by 2030 would have 3 out of 4 world largest economies and would produce about ½ of world global output by 2050. The importance of Chinese Investment bank therefore would be enhanced manifold as the infrastructure of most of the developing and developed Countries, including US, even now is already in need of huge investment for repair and maintenance as well as for new construction.

Chinese Investment in South Asian countries is comparatively smaller but vital for achievement of its long term objectives. Chinese Investment in Pakistan, Gwadar Port of about 45b $, is being blown out of proportion by the incumbent Govt. for obvious expedient reasons. In Nicaragua one Chinese businessman is investing 50b $ constructing his own canal on the model of Panama Canal. Had there been an honest and capable Govt., with technical experts at hand, this investment could have been a windfall for Pakistan. China needs that Port, of unique contour suitable for modern Panamax or Post-Panamax ships to be harbored and with almost zero blockade possibility, more than Pakistan needs Chinese Investment.  China would save a fortune by almost free use of Gwadar Port. Pakistan on the other hand, would be burdened with repayment of the loan and heavy cost, with possible casualties, of providing extensive security to Chinese workforce. In return Pakistan would get a pittance after long time in the form of tariff. Strategically Pakistan would be severely disadvantaged as all of its neighbors are already feeling threatened. We should also be mindful that China has a huge appetite for raw material and very little for value added finished products. Pakistan lacks institutions, equipment and expertise for providing even raw material efficiently and economically. If china would provide all that too then it would be nothing short of a long term leasing of Pakistan along-with its resources to China. Coal based Power generation plants, which will be completely phased out by Chinese in their own country by2030, is a crude example of Pakistan’s lack of awareness and concern for its National Interests. Pakistani industry already in doldrums may not be able to compete or even sustain. We might end up becoming a satellite, slave state of China. I really wonder if any institution, including Pakistani military and civil establishment, has considered all these risk?

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