Geopolitics

The Pure Folly Of A Pacific Trade Pact Without China

"A small circle with glaring exclusions"
"A small circle with glaring exclusions"
Sun Xingjie

BEIJING — Both the definition of "Free-Trade Zone" and the "Pacific" should be called into question as the U.S. and Japan try to seal a deal on the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) by the end of the year.

As an ambitious multilateral trade cooperation mechanism outside the World Trade Organization (WTO), the TPP would not currently include such major Asian economies as China and South Korea. It is thus a partnership as much about who is excluded as it is about who is in it.

The WTO's Doha Development Round today still remains incomplete. Meanwhile multilateral or bilateral free trade agreements are all the rage. Free trade zones constructed outside the WTO are more or less exclusive, and the multilateral free trade zones are usually delineated by regions.

The TPP has thus deviated from the typical framework as a regional agreement, since "Trans-Pacific" turns out to be a very vague definition indeed. There already exists a regional forum — the APEC, between 21 different Pacific Rim countries and regions, compared to TPP's proposed 12 member states. It's a "small circle" with glaring exclusions.

The United States is attempting to use the TPP as a strategic tool for its declared "return" to East Asia. Its intention of using an upmarket free trade zone to redivide East Asia’s geoeconomic space will undoubtedly face resistance from the numerous multilateral or bilateral free trade agreements already in place in the region. Redrawing boundaries in a more mixed network is bound to be more complicated for all, which is ultimately the difficulty that the TPP faces.

As an independent high-level free trade zone, the TPP will need to establish an identity. And in order to establish this identity, the category of “others” is bound to exist. China, South Korea and Russia are outside of this club. The problem is that over the past decade various smaller trade agreements have been formed in East Asia, including the 10+1 and the ongoing Sino-South Korea or Sino-Japan negotiations.

Many are now convinced that the region already has too much multilateralism, and what is lacking is a higher standard and more integral multilateral institutional arrangement. However this inclusiveness is exactly what the TPP is missing.

Big plans, partial results

The Trans-Pacific member states, moreover, are at different stages of development with a variety of development models, which will make it harder for them to form a common identity. The core of the East Asian model is the export-oriented economy led by a strong government. The prerequisite for such a development model is the external market’s openness, in particular the strong dependence on the American market.

Meanwhile, the TPP is aiming to achieve a peer-to-peer open market. And even more importantly, it wants to fix agreements on intellectual property rights, service trade and business regulations. But Vietnam and Malaysia, for example, have quite a number of state-owned enterprises that makes them considerably different from America’s free enterprise system. At the same time, Japan is demanding that the United States loosen up its car market while the U.S. wants the Japanese to open up their agricultural commodity market.

That China isn’t participating in the TPP is both a sign of its exclusionary approach, and a reminder of the cost of excluding. China is East Asia’s economic locomotive and the biggest trade partner of numerous TPP member states, including Japan. If the TPP is to be against China, then TPP member countries will be forced to face the pressure of choosing sides.

For China, there are two ways of defusing the situation: Either join the TPP or reinvent the wheel. Chinese Premier Li Keqiang has declared on many occasions that China is open-minded about the topic. However the TPP’s strict standards could shackle China on various fronts. China, instead, is advocating upgrading the East Asia free trade zone, and other agreements that could dilute the TPP’s dominant nature in East Asia.

The exclusiveness of the Trans-Pacific Partnership doesn't match with America's rhetoric of multilateralism — but it shouldn't come as a surprise. Indeed, after World War II, the United States used multilateralism to constrain other countries. Arvind Subramanian, Senior Fellow at the Peterson Institute for International Economics pointed out that Washington will contain China's rise via multilateralism. Thus, the fact that the TPP excludes China would seem to patently deviate from America's political objectives.

As a matter of fact, China is no longer a passive recipient of multilateralism, but one of its chief promoters. It has been a prime beneficiary of multilateralism, with its trade dependence exceeding 50% to far surpass that of other major world economies, including the United States and Japan. So in the end, it will be very hard for any regional free trade deal to cross the Pacific without China, which stands at the center of the Western Pacific.

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Society

What It Means When The Jews Of Germany No Longer Feel Safe

A neo-Nazi has been buried in the former grave of a Jewish musicologist Max Friedlaender – not an oversight, but a deliberate provocation. This is just one more example of antisemitism on the rise in Germany, and society's inability to respond.

At a protest against antisemitism in Berlin

Eva Marie Kogel

-Essay-

BERLIN — If you want to check the state of your society, there's a simple test: as the U.S. High Commissioner for Germany, John Jay McCloy, said in 1949, the touchstone for a democracy is the well-being of Jews. This litmus test is still relevant today. And it seems Germany would not pass.


Incidents are piling up. Most recently, groups of neo-Nazis from across the country traveled to a church near Berlin for the funeral of a well-known far-right figure. He was buried in the former grave of Jewish musicologist Max Friedlaender, a gravesite chosen deliberately by the right-wing extremists.

The incident at the cemetery

They intentionally chose a Jewish grave as an act of provocation, trying to gain maximum publicity for this act of desecration. And the cemetery authorities at the graveyard in Stahnsdorf fell for it. The church issued an immediate apology, calling it a "terrible mistake" and saying they "must immediately see whether and what we can undo."

There are so many incidents that get little to no media attention.

It's unfathomable that this burial was allowed to take place at all, but now the cemetery authorities need to make a decision quickly about how to put things right. Otherwise, the grave may well become a pilgrimage site for Holocaust deniers and antisemites.

The incident has garnered attention in the international press and it will live long in the memory. Like the case of singer-songwriter Gil Ofarim, who recently claimed he was subjected to antisemitic abuse at a hotel in Leipzig. Details of the crime are still being investigated. But there are so many other incidents that get little to no media attention.

Photo of the grave of Jewish musicologist Max Friedlaender

The grave of Jewish musicologist Max Friedlaender

Jens Kalaene/dpa/ZUMA

Crimes against Jews are rising

Across all parts of society, antisemitism is on the rise. Until a few years ago, Jewish life was seen as an accepted part of German society. Since the attack on the synagogue in Halle in 2019, the picture has changed: it was a bitter reminder that right-wing terror against Jewish people has a long, unbroken history in Germany.

Stories have abounded about the coronavirus crisis being a Jewish conspiracy; meanwhile, Muslim antisemitism is becoming louder and more forceful. The anti-Israel boycott movement BDS rears its head in every debate on antisemitism, just as left-wing or post-colonial thinking are part of every discussion.

Jewish life needs to be allowed to step out of the shadows.

Since 2015, the number of antisemitic crimes recorded has risen by about a third, to 2,350. But victims only report around 20% of cases. Some choose not to because they've had bad experiences with the police, others because they're afraid of the perpetrators, and still others because they just want to put it behind them. Victims clearly hold out little hope of useful reaction from the state – so crimes go unreported.

And the reality of Jewish life in Germany is a dark one. Sociologists say that Jewish children are living out their "identity under siege." What impact does it have on them when they can only go to nursery under police protection? Or when they hear Holocaust jokes at school?

Germany needs to take its antisemitism seriously

This shows that the country of commemorative services and "stumbling blocks" placed in sidewalks as a memorial to victims of the Nazis has lost its moral compass. To make it point true north again, antisemitism needs to be documented from the perspective of those affected, making it visible to the non-Jewish population. And Jewish life needs to be allowed to step out of the shadows.

That is the first thing. The second is that we need to talk about specifically German forms of antisemitism. For example, the fact that in no other EU country are Jewish people so often confronted about the Israeli government's policies (according to a survey, 41% of German Jews have experienced this, while the EU average is 28%). Projecting the old antisemitism onto the state of Israel offers people a more comfortable target for their arguments.

Our society needs to have more conversations about antisemitism. The test of German democracy, as McCloy called it, starts with taking these concerns seriously and talking about them. We need to have these conversations because it affects all of us. It's about saving our democracy. Before it's too late.

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