A Business Pivot to Asia

In class this Thursday, we will have as a guest Curtis Chin, the former US ambassador to the Asian Development Bank in Manila, who is currently a senior fellow at the Asian Institute of Technology in Bangkok. In this Wall Street Journal essay, Chin argues that. while much has been made about the Obama administration’s strategic pivot to Asia, “missing from this shift is a ‘business pivot’—a more concerted effort to increase trade and investment between America and its allies in the region.” Such a move “would be good strategy, and good economics too,” Chin writes. He concludes:

A central benefit of peace and stability in Southeast Asia—which is a goal of the U.S. administration’s strategic pivot—would be to open the way for greater commercial opportunities on both sides of the Pacific. It’s time for Washington to understand that trade and economic ties can be part of the means to a strategic solution in the region, and not just the ends.

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6 thoughts on “A Business Pivot to Asia

  1. Yilan Tian

    The second Obama Administration term has been welcomed in the Asia Region compared to Romney’s (a hint from the stock markets after the election as well). China’s neighbors want US presence in the region to have a “safety assurance” but a US–China rivalry is not something they wanted. So the “Pivot to Asia” should not only focus on building multilateral engagements in the region but as well as a constructive bilateral relationship with China.

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  2. Anastasia Maria Stitch

    The US policy pivot to Asia should include international education as a tool to strengthen its “soft power” comparative advantage. The financial contribution of international students to the American economy should not go ignored. More and more students from the region are considering alternative educational routes such as the UK, Australia, New Zealand and Canada. This is in part due to a comparatively flexible approach adopted by Australia, where, for example, some universities are designing programmes that cut down on paperwork and shortening the student visa waiting process. Therefore, part of the emphasis of the Obama admin’s “Pivot” should take into account the contribution of students from its pacific allies.

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  3. Rebecca Pang

    Taking Japanese students studying in the U.S. as an example, according to statistic from the Institute of International Education, there’s a more than 6% drop as compared to the figure in the year before. Not to mention that it was a 14% drop in the previous year. Besides the direct financial contribution, the U.S. should consider promoting state/community colleges which are internationally recognised. These colleges are used to be attractive to international students, especially Japanese. Again, the U.S. should recognise international education as a competitive advantage which is essential to the the U.S. policy pivot to Asia.

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  4. Merlin Boone

    I’d like to make a comment along a similar vein. The USG should advocate less restrictive policies for Asian immigrants who are pursuing higher education and advanced technical work. Currently, immigrants studying at top-level US universities are often deported once their academic work is completed. This trend is a direct drain on human capital and should be rectified with this “Pivot to Asia”. As both Rebecca and Ana have mentioned, expanding US international education is an important component of the sod power shift. I believe it is a more fundamental component of sustainable economic growth in the United States.

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  5. Kwong Mung Kwan

    With China”s economy going downwards plus the constant territorial disputes plus the new central government rulers, the timing is really convenient for the US to expand their trade & economic presence in Asia, particularly in SEA. With the apparent move of US to gain impact in SEA, China would have to rearrange her priorities again to deter the containment – less disputes with neighbors and closer economic ties with them. Put economics above politics.

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  6. AM2012

    There are obvious tangible benefits for a ‘business pivot’ to Asia, with particular emphasis on building stronger economic ties. I think Chin hit the nail on the head when he stated that recent US efforts in the Asia Pacific have lacked focus; the TPP is a step in the right direction, but it’s priorities seem to be in expanding the scope of a potential partnership rather than trying to conclude negotiations.

    Nevertheless, the US may have a difficult time asserting itself economically in a region that has seen an influx of capital that is being distributed in a non-normative way. The US has maintained very loud engagement with repressive regimes and in pushing human rights, etc. This approach is perhaps less effective than behind-the-scenes diplomacy on such issues, while publicly pushing a pro-business pro-growth agenda. Similarly, it creates an expectation that the US will match its rhetoric with actions, which has failed to materialize on key issues such as North Korea and damaged US credibility in the region.

    I think proposing a business-pivot is all well and good, but the US might be biting off more than it can chew in the region.

    Reply

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