The Obama administration and its Democratic allies in Congress are no friends of free trade. Their myopia is effectively reducing America’s economic ties with other nations precisely when potential rivals are expanding theirs. For instance, China has signed a free trade accord with the ASEAN states, extending Beijing’s economic and political reach in Southeast Asia and among Muslim nations. Warns Joshua Trevino:
The political dimension of this convergence is a bit more worrying to the United States. Where, after all, do the political interests of Chinese and most Islamic states coincide? It’s a bad list: in the suppression of democracy, in the denial of minority rights, and in the rejection of Western dominance. The ASEAN nations themselves aren’t quite so uniformly malign, though they do have their bad actors in Burma, Vietnam, and Laos – but neither will they have much interest in countering the Chinese-Islamic concurrence on these points. We already see it in effect in international fora, most recently in the failed Copenhagen talks, when Sudan served as a Chinese proxy for the disruption of the proposed treaty. (This may actually be the first and only time Americans can applaud this partnership.) Expect more of this, and expect it to spill into war-and-peace matters in decades to come. If the Islamic world perceives China as a counterweight to Western influence – and if Chinese nationalism desires to be perceived as that counterweight – that’s a series of difficult choices for American policymakers in the years ahead.
Yet Congress can’t be bothered to ratify the U.S.-South Korea FTA even as China’s trade with the South races past that of America. Beijing’s influence in Asia is bound to continue rising, but there’s no reason for Washington to toss away America’s strongest card: trade and investment.