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Tue Dec 11, 2012, 10:08 PM

...what will be the pillars of the Obama administration’s economic policy toward China?

Romney lost, and it was Romney supporters who were most supportive of the next president confronting China. Nearly two-thirds of Republicans backed getting tougher with Beijing, up 11 percentage points in just a year. Democrats, on the other hand, prioritized building stronger economic relations with China (53%) over getting tougher with China (39%). Democrats’ backing for confrontation was up 6 points since 2011, but it remained the minority sentiment among those in Obama’s party.

Likely components of the administration's economic policy towards China

The first will likely be more complaints about Chinese subsidies and trade practices filed with the WTO, given the president’s campaign promises and his record during his first term. Washington has been relatively successful with such cases in the past, and pursuing multilateral dispute settlements has the added advantage of avoiding a direct bilateral confrontation with China.

The second will be the pursuit of trade agreements that notably do not include China. The most important of these is the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), a free trade agreement among a growing list of nations bordering the Pacific. It is the Obama administration’s avowed aim to construct a TPP with standards so high — especially rules regarding behavior by state-owned enterprises — that China could never join without transforming its economic system. This stance in part reflects the fact that two-thirds (67%) of the U.S. public believe China practices unfair trade, according to a 2012 survey by the Chicago Council on Global Affairs.

The likely 2013 launch of a U.S.-European Union free trade negotiation — effectively a Trans-Atlantic Partnership, a bookend for the TPP — primarily reflects majority (58%) sentiment in the United States that increased trade with Europe would be a good thing for the United States. But it can also be seen as an attempt to establish U.S.-European, rather than Chinese, technical and regulatory standards as global business norms.

The Obama administration is unlikely to label China a currency manipulator, which is something Mitt Romney promised he would do on his first day in office. In Obama’s first term, the White House had multiple opportunities to do so and declined, even though the renminbi was weaker against the dollar than it is now.


This is the first article I have read that discussed the significance of the current TPP and US-EU trade negotiations in the context of our trade issues with China. Neither include China and both seem to be designed to marginalize - to the extent possible - China's emergence as an economic power by forcing it to change the way it does business in order to compete in the world economy.

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