What world-changing behemoth that begins with the letter “C” presents the greatest threat to U.S. commercial and strategic interests in the Asia-Pacific region? Wrong. Even in the wake of this week’s potentially provocative tribunal ruling against Beijing’s territorial claims in the South China Sea, the greatest threat remains Congress, not China.
The Trans-Pacific Partnership, involving the United States and 11 other Pacific-bordering countries, has a tremendous upside for the U.S. For example, it’s projected to boost U.S. inflation-adjusted annual income by $131 billion by 2030, which represents 0.5 percent of GDP. It’s also anticipated to generate an additional $357 billion in annual exports by the same year, according to the Peterson Institute for International Economics (PIIE), a Washington, DC-based think tank.
The U.S. response to the ever deepening political and economic crisis in Venezuela, and the regime’s increasingly aggressive behavior toward its neighbors and the international community, is compelling evidence that the Barack Obama administration is sincere in respecting the sovereignty of nations of Latin America and the Caribbean, and allowing the region to address its own governance issues.
In the works are two new major free trade agreements: the Trans-Pacific Partnership involving the United States and 11 other Pacific-bordering nations, and the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership with the U.S. and European Union. But the question that continues to be asked is this: Are these agreements good for the United States?
With this week’s visit by People’s Republic of China Primer Li Keqiang to Brazil, Colombia, Chile and Peru, some analysts have suggested that the PRC may be turning away from concentrating its engagement with Latin America and the Caribbean on the less market-friendly regimes of the Bolivarian Alliance. I beg to differ. Premier Li’s visit is nothing more and nothing less than the continuation, with ongoing adjustments, of China’s growing multidimensional engagement with the region.
President Nicolás Maduro’s desperate effort to sustain the socialist framework he inherited from the late Hugo Chávez in 2013 is careening toward failure. A steep fall in global prices for oil, the main source of the government’s income, has exposed fully the systemic weaknesses caused by years of economic mismanagement.
Since the People’s Republic of China (PRC) began to open its economy in 1978, its relationship with Latin America and the Caribbean has passed through four phases. Prior to its 2001 entry into the World Trade Organization (WTO), it conducted limited engagements through principally diplomatic and cultural vehicles, aimed at building relationships and winning diplomatic recognition among countries of the region.
Many common perceptions foreign investors have about Brazil are misplaced. By all rights, given its size, location, and natural resource base, Brazil should be an economic juggernaut. But the truth is that Brazil should never have been designated a BRIC because it is a poorly managed economy that has rarely lived up to its potential.
I recently taught a course in China based on my soon-to-be released book, Chinese Companies on the Ground in Latin America. While there, I interacted with Chinese research colleagues and students who hope to be the next Chinese diplomats and managers relocated to Latin America. Their perspectives differ from President Xi’s exuberant declarations and provide a glimpse of the challenges that lie ahead.
As Chinese engagement with Latin America and the Caribbean has expanded over the last decade, two of the greatest inconveniences for the P.R.C. government have been managing unique relationships with each of the 42 individual countries of the region, and doing so in the shadow of the United States. China’s approach to this problem demonstrates a new assertiveness.
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