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Bipartisan Commission Calls for Reinvigorated U.S. Economic Strategy toward Asia-Pacific
Former USTR Charlene Barshefsky

The Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) on Jan. 5, 2017 released recommendations by the bipartisan Asia Economic Strategy Commission (AESC), which calls for a reinvigorated U.S. economic strategy in the Asia-Pacific region.

Cochaired by Charlene Barshefsky, Evan Greenberg, and Jon Huntsman, the Commission was convened by CSIS in September 2015 to study the benefits and challenges of U.S. economic ties with the vital Asia-Pacific region and come up with policy recommendations for the new administration taking office this month.

The Commission calls for a comprehensive economic strategy that will advance and secure America’s enduring interests in the dynamic Asia-Pacific. “No region of the world will do more to shape U.S. economic prospects over the coming decades,” it concludes. “The incoming administration will need an effective strategy that advances U.S. interests, has economics at the heart, and begins on day one.”

Ambassador Barshefsky stated, “It is critical to America’s future that we lead in the Asia Pacific in support of growth and security. This means it is time to double down on U.S. leadership through a robust economic strategy—which should include addressing the deficiencies in the Trans-Pacific Partnership so that it works for all Americans.”

The report makes the following eight key recommendations:

1. Articulate a clear vision of the United States as a Pacific power: Starting with the inaugural speech, the new president should make clear to the American people, in words and policies, that the United States is a Pacific power and that robust trans-Pacific exchange is critical to our future prosperity and security.

2. Complete TPP, and continue working to open markets and strengthen rules in the Asia Pacific: Ratification of TPP—fixed as needed—is critical to U.S. credibility in Asia and to our role as champion of a rules-based order following Western norms. The new administration should work toward its eventual passage and in the meantime continue to promote liberalization and high-standard rules like those in TPP.

3. Take action to ensure that the U.S.-China relationship is mutually beneficial: A mutually beneficial U.S.-China economic relationship is strongly in U.S. interests. However, the relationship is currently out of balance. The new administration should continue to pursue cooperation with Beijing where possible, while responding forcefully to Chinese practices that harm U.S. interests.

4. Take action to maintain U.S. technological leadership: America’s comparative advantage in technology is vital to our prosperity and security. In addition to making the right investments in innovation at home, the new administration must work to ensure high, open standards for technology internationally and protect U.S. intellectual property.

5. Bring U.S. strengths to the infrastructure push across Asia: Washington needs a more coherent strategy for U.S. involvement in the current infrastructure investment push across Asia. The strategy should be built around U.S. strengths, including commitment to the rule of law, transparency, and world leading companies.

6. Update and uphold the Asia-Pacific economic architecture: The new administration should work with partner countries and the private sector to strengthen and streamline economic institutions that support a rules-based order in the Asia Pacific, such the Asian Development Bank (ADB) and the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum. It should also participate more fully in the economic dimensions of ASEAN cooperation.

7. Work with Congress to rebuild U.S. leverage and fully resource U.S. priorities in Asia: The new administration should assess the adequacy of current spending to support U.S. economic priorities in the Asia Pacific and identify where additional investments are needed, review measures available under current law to address unfair economic policies, and work with Congress to enhance U.S. resources and leverage.

8. Build an effective interagency Asia economic team coordinated by the White House: The new administration should update its policymaking apparatus to reflect the critical importance of economic tools in a comprehensive strategy toward the Asia region, and improve coordination across the U.S. government and with stakeholders.

The Commission was made up of a bipartisan group of 18 senior leaders from across the United States, including former government officials, experts on Asia and economic policy, and business people with deep experience in the region. The project was directed by CSIS scholars Matthew P. Goodman, Scott Miller, and Amy Searight.






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