Washington, Dec 14: The US must not abandon the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and should supplement it by negotiating bilateral investment treaties with China and India to respond to the growing Chinese activism in Asia, a former US diplomat said.
Evan A Feingenbaum, the former Deputy Assistant Secretary of State, in the latest issue of the Foreign Affairs magazine, said, "What the United States should be encouraging is a liberal, open, market-based economic order in the region.
And the TPP by itself would not have been enough, in any case." Feingenbaum, who also played a key role in negotiations over the India-US civilian nuclear deal, also said that instead of repealing TPP, the incoming Trump Administration should supplement it with a direct trade deal with both India and China.
"Rather than abandoning the deal, Washington should be supplementing it, by negotiating bilateral investment treaties with China and India to open up their economies to U S firms and to support economic reformers in both countries; pursuing public-private partnerships to get US businesses involved in infrastructure development across Asia; striking specific agreements to open up markets in the service and technology sectors, where the United States excels; and seeking new pacts in areas such as fishing and environmental standards for Chinas Belt and Road project," Feingenbaum said.
"Doing so would mean that Washington was helping set the agenda, not merely reacting to Chinese proposals," he argued.
"It is also worth noting that China often succeeds at its efforts to reform global institutions and build pan-Asian groups because its demands mesh with those of India, an increasingly close US partner," he argued.
For example, India helped found the AIIB and now ranks as its second-largest shareholder, he said.
"Despite their suspicion of Chinese power, officials in New Delhi tend to agree that new forums act as a needed counterweight to unrepresentative global institutions. Like China, India is not content to live in perpetuity in architecture largely built by the West," the former Bush era official said.
He also warned that the United States should not force its allies into a binary choice between Beijing and Washington on issues that are not vital to US national security or to the national security of its allies.
"In the South China Sea, where China is challenging maritime law and customary practice, such pressure is necessary. But Chinas financing of a commercial railway or power line is not a comparable threat," he said.
It is in Asia, not in global institutions, that the United States faces its toughest choices about how to respond to Chinas growing activism, he said.