Written By: - Date published: 10:50 am, October 29th, 2012 - 22 comments
Categories: australian politics, business, defence, economy, overseas investment, tourism, trade - Tags: julia gillard, RCEP, tpp
The Pacific has become a major site of the struggle between the US and China for international dominance. The NZ government seems to be playing both sides, while Key is personally more aligned with the US (his Hawaiian hideaway, salivating at the thought of meeting any top US government representative, and his frequent trips to the US). Meanwhile, Australia is aiming to be a major player in the region.
An ambitious plan aimed at maximising links with booming China and other Asian economies will power Australia into the world’s top 10 wealthiest nations by 2025, the government has said.
By engaging in more business with China and India in particular, Australia aims to lift Asia’s impact into its economy to one third by 2025, from 25 per cent now.
“Whatever else this century brings, it will bring Asia’s return to global leadership, Asia’s rise. This is not only unstoppable, it is gathering pace,” Prime Minister Julia Gillard said on Sunday.
The plan is to make Australia a key player in the region. According to Al Jazeera,
Gillard said China, India, Indonesia, Japan, South Korea and the US would be Australia’s key partners, and the rise of Asia’s middle classes would bring opportunities in industries from health and care for the aged to food and travel.
Not a major role for NZ then? Whatever happened to John Key’s idea of making NZ a significant international financial hub?
Gillard acknowledged that Australia will need to carefully balance Australia’s links with both the US and China. According to Al Jazeera, the focus will be on Australia balancing:
its defence and security ties to the US with supporting China’s military growth and stronger role in the region…
Gillard claims the US’s defense capabilities provide a stabilising presence, enabling the building of trust and co-operation in the region. But such a balance will be very tricky to pull off. Already Australia and NZ are launching into negotiations of an ASEAN trade agreement (The Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership) rivalling the TPP. Gordon Campbell asks:
So if Craig Emerson is right and the RCEP is indeed “the perfect vehicle for advancing Australia’s interests in the Asian century” where does that leave the evidently less than perfect TPPA? Are we hosting something of a lame duck here in Auckland in December? And how do we propose to juggle a deal under the TPPA umbrella led by the US that – for example – promotes tighter copyright, patent and other IP provisions to which we apparently object, while negotiating a more “feasible” deal on much the same matters with China, Japan and the rest of ASEAN? In the end, which set of provisions will have priority under NZ law? Such a juggling act may test the skills of even the redoubtable Mr Groser.
Gillard’s Asian Century white paper and the RCEP don’t open up a whole new ball-game, but they are significant developments in the ongoing US-China struggles in the region. It’s something that our government and opposition parties need to put some thought into, and incorporate into relevant policies.