China’s pivot to America could overshadow the US’s pivot to Asia

Not so much a shift in policy but a growing trend

There has been so much discussion of the United States pivot to Asia that few people have stopped to consider the implications or the success of China’s own pivot to America.

China already wields enormous influence in Asia through its size and its adroitness at negotiating, buying or bullying its way to goodwill among its partners – much like every other player on the geopolitical landscape. It has or is part of free trade agreements that include just about every country in the region.

The all-but-certain death of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) opens another door for China to step in with its own Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) that includes India, Japan and most countries in Southeast Asia. China also has plans to push for the Free Trade Area of the Asia Pacific (FTAAP), that would include some 21 countries in Asia and America.

Meanwhile, the U.S. pivot has been one of the key shifts in global economics and policy over the last couple of decades. It had the promise of helping the world continue along the path towards greater globalization.

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A China-US trade war is not likely to be

The “man on the street” will be the biggest loser

All the talk that has erupted in the past couple of weeks about possible trade wars between the United States and China has been interesting in the way that a soap opera is interesting: lots of drama with little link to reality.

Sure, it is easy to use China as a scapegoat. A place that is conveniently far away and too big to understand. It is easy to say “look, it is China’s fault and we will put the hurt on them and things will be lovely all around”. If only that were true.

For once, it has been China that has responded with a measure of restraint. An editorial in the reactionary Global Times newspaper outlined the likely response from what is now the second largest economy in the world: “A batch of Boeing orders will be replaced by Airbus. US auto and iPhone sales in China will suffer a setback, and US soybean and maize imports will be halted. China can also limit the number of Chinese students studying in the US.”

Multinationals would certainly lose in a trade war but so would people in the US and possibly elsewhere by paying a lot more for items that are now treated as disposable commodities.

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Poverty, growth and baseless anger

The economics of misplaced anger

Fast growing Asian countries have “eliminated” poverty at an astonishing speed, bringing people out of extreme poverty into mere gut-reaching poverty.

At first blush, the numbers are suggesting of a hopeful future. In 1990, about a third of the people in the world lived on less than US$1.90 a day. By 2013, it was just 10.7%. In actual numbers, that is 1.85 billion in 1990 compared to 767 million in 2013. A second glance puts in perspective the anger of many people in the world, and not in a good way.
In 1990, the bulk of global extreme poverty was in Asia, the most populous region in the world. Now it is in Africa, the most troubled region in the world.

We wrote about this with my colleagues in a series of stories in China Daily Asia Weekly last month to mark International Day for the Eradication of Poverty, which falls on 17 October. The World Bank says the number of people living in extreme poverty is falling by 88 million per year.

Before we start celebrating, though, let’s go back to that US$1.90 a day, which adds up to US$57 for a 30 day month or a whopping US$693.50 a year. To meet the threshold, a family of four would have to earn US$2,774 per year or US$231 per month. It is hard to imagine any place in the world where that is anywhere near enough.

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2016 BOAO Forum for Asia

Looking to the future

This year’s BOAO Forum for Asia (BFA) has a theme of Asia’s New Future: New Dynamics, New Vision.

This time, the 17th annual gathering of leaders and industry professionals in Asia covers areas such as inclusive finance, disruptions of traditional business and economic models, new banking practices, regional cooperation and growing links through reforms and initiatives.

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Indonesia’s FDI troubles

Largest ASEAN economy claims economic prowess but foreign investors remain unconvinced

When Indonesia’s Investment Coordinating Board (BKPM) rejected some 6,541 foreign investment permits last month, it underscored a problem Indonesia has been facing for a couple of years. Investors are looking at the country. They are scouting deals. They are searching for opportunities. They are not always investing, though.

Last year Indonesia attracted around US$24 billion in foreign investment but that is about a quarter of the total investment that China attracts and less than half of what Brazil receives, reports MNI’s Asia Insight. For the country to maintain levels of economic growth of close to 6% per year, it will need a lot more investment.

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Asian cities need sustainability

Environment, productivity and work hours are all big issues

Asia is home to some of the largest urban centres in the world.

Jakarta, in Indonesia, is home to some 25 million people. Manila is huge. Tokyo and Seoul are both large. Smaller Hong Kong and Singapore are large by any standard. High urbanisation rates are making these cities even larger, but not necessarily more sustainable.

As Cornelia Zou reports in China Daily Asia Pacific last week the challenges are quite significant, but so are the opportunities for Asian cities to start taking issues of sustainability seriously and make significant leapfrogs in terms of the environments, quality of life, education, even work hours and governance.

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Cheap oil helps Indonesia

Lower subsidies cut government costs and could help build infrastructure

Cheap oil has helped Indonesia eliminate punishing subsidies and while the move is likely to bump inflation up, it will also free up a about US$21 billion that the government can now spend on infrastructure or social programs.

All this is good news for the economy, which is still making a comeback from a mini-crisis in 2013. Growth this year is expected to be in the 5.5% range, around the same level as Malaysia. Inflation could average out to 4%.

Speaking during the Asian Financial Forum in Hong Kong, the deputy governor of Bank Indonesia Perry Warjiyo said the country’s central bank is more likely than not to keep its policy rate steady at 7.75%. As this piece in Asia Insight, a Market News International publication, points out things are looking good for the largest economy in Southeast Asia.

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China Issues Biosimilar Guidelines Draft

A long-awaited set of guidelines for a billion-dollar market.

After years of waiting, Chinese biosimilar makers will soon have a set of guidelines to follow.

This post on Thomson Reuters Life Sciences Connect news blog (HERE) outlines the  industry’s reaction to the draft biosimilar guidelines.

The global biologics market is experiencing a golden age over the current decade. As drug development progresses, it’s time for biopharmaceutical companies to start reaping its rewards. The market is expected to grow more than 80 percent from $138 billion in 2010 to $253 billion by 2020, according to Sandoz international GmbH. And $2 billion of this will be coming from biosimilar products.

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Malaysian rate hike signals new trend

Looking ahead, inflation is, however, expected to remain above its long-run average. — Bank Negara Malaysia

Malaysia’s central bank welcomed Ramadan fasts and celebrations through July and August by raising the country’s interest rate for the first time in three years.

As many economists expected, Bank Negara Malaysia (BNM) announced after a routine meeting at the beginning of July that it decided to raise its overnight policy rate by 25 basis points. The new interest rate is 3.25 percent with floor and ceiling rates raised to 3 percent and 3.5 percent accordingly.

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