News / Asia

Former US Trade Reps See Opportunities, Difficulties in Chinese Economic Growth

U.S. Trade Representative Charlene Barshefsky (File Photo)
U.S. Trade Representative Charlene Barshefsky (File Photo)

The rapid growth of China's economy over the past few decades has created new market strengths in Asia as Western countries have struggled to cope with recent economic pressures.

Ambassador Charlene Barshefsky served as U.S. Trade Representative from 1997 to 2001 in the Clinton Administration. Speaking recently at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, she outlined four trends in global trade with respect to China.

The first trend she spoke about is the acceleration of globalization.  The second is the reemergence of China and the integration of Asia around China as its hub.  Third, she mentioned China's reemergence comes at a time of extraordinary economic weakness in the West.  She said the fourth broad trend is the new competitive environment accelerating the disruption of settled industries.

Ambassador Barshefsky said the trends are historic. "The global economy is larger, it is growing faster, it is more integrated economically under the pressures of technology and capital flows than ever before in any historic sense," she said.

She said the second broad trend, the reemergence of China, should not come as a surprise. "I always use the word 'reemergence' with respect to China because 160 years ago the global economy was dominated by two countries, China and India, and China held over 30 percent of the world's GDP.  By comparison, today we hold 18, 19 percent of the world's GDP, maybe.  They were over 30 percent.  So, the reemergence of China.  This has created a structural shift in the global economy.  It is 'the' international economic story of our lifetimes," she said.

China has enjoyed robust growth rates over the past 30 years.  China's economy is now larger than Japan's or Germany's, but still smaller than the U.S. economy.

Ambassador Clayton Yeutter, who served as the U.S. Trade Representative from 1985 to 1989 in the Reagan administration, said the current Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement is an opportunity for the United States to tap into Asia's growth.

"This is certainly the most active trade agreement, active trade negotiation we have in the world today. And it may well represent the wave of the future.  One could certainly hypothesize that plurilateral agreements might well be the wave of the future in contrast to bilateral agreements or multilateral agreements that take a decade or more to negotiate," he said.

Ambassador Barshefsky said the United States has to understand China and the Asia region is in an economic pattern that has not been seen in our lifetime, but has historical precedent.

"[China] has integrated with its Asian neighbors.  Far less important than trade agreements between them is the fact that these economies have reverted to a more historic pattern in Asia, a pattern with which we are unfamiliar, but a pattern with which we would have been familiar had we lived 200 years ago or 1,000 years ago, 2,000, 4,000 years ago.  So this is a very different era, a very different situation," she said.

Part of the difference is a climate that includes technologically advanced communications and financial systems for facilitating transactions.  Combined with the improved transportation of products, nations have to agree on regulations, which Ambassador Yeutter said is a major part of negotiations on the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement.

"There is a lot of good work being done on trade facilitation. There is work on some regulatory coherence, which is badly needed particularly in the sanitary, phytosanitary area, and some really good work, advanced work on intellectual property, and then more work on investment than has traditionally gone into trade agreements," he said.

Multinational corporations have increased tenfold in 35 years to more than 75,000 in operation today. But the economic downturn has led to a reduction in global trade.

In her third point on the broad trends, Ambassador Barshefsky said the reemergence of China has come at a time when trade levels are close to those last seen during the Great Depression of the 1930s.

"This is a very volatile combination. [There are] extraordinary global imbalances which we have all read about: trade imbalances, financial imbalances, trade deficit countries versus trade-surplus countries, currency issues, competitive non-appreciation of currencies, and all the rest," she said.

The fourth broad trend is the weakening of Western economies, which has led to job losses in many areas. U.S. manufacturing has been eroding for over 40 years. An increase in technology-assisted productivity has led to the need for fewer workers to create the same output, resulting in job dislocation.

Ambassador Barshefsky says President Barack Obama is pushing for increased trade exports and improved education in research and development to help offset the losses.

"The administration has been spurred to drive - begin to drive a competitiveness agenda, and this is absolutely critical. If our house is not in order, I do not care what we do on the trade side. We are lost. We have to get our house in order. There is no excuse for us not to put into place policies which are solely in our control to do to enhance U.S. competitiveness," she said.

Ambassador Yeutter said the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement could assist U.S. efforts if other nations can be brought into the pact. "The hope is that if this agreement is done really, really well, that it will then have bolt-on possibilities as what I call "bolting on additional countries" at a later time with a relatively short negotiation being needed because of the quality of the agreement that is presented to them," he said.

Ambassador Yeutter said the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement could be ready in time for the APEC meetings this year, hosted by the United States in Honolulu in November.

Jim Stevenson

For over 35 years, Jim Stevenson has been sharing stories with the world on the radio and internet. From both the field and the studio, Jim enjoys telling about specific events and uncovering the interesting periphery every story possesses. His broadcast career has been balanced between music, news, and sports, always blending the serious with the lighter side.

You May Like

Video Americans, Tourists, Reflect on Meaning of Thanksgiving

VOA garnered opinions from several people soon after November 13 Paris attacks, which colored many of their thoughts

Video Thais Send Security Concerns Down the River

In northern Thailand, the annual tradition of constructing floating baskets to carry away the year’s bad spirits highlights the Loy Krathong festival

Video Tree Houses - A Branch of American Dream

Workshops aimed at teaching people how to build tree houses have become widely popular in America in recent years

This forum has been closed.
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Belgium-Germany Border Remains Porous, Even As Manhunt For Paris Attacker Continuesi
Ayesha Tanzeem
November 25, 2015 10:46 PM
One of the suspected gunmen in the Nov. 13 Paris attacks, Salah Abdeslam, evaded law enforcement, made his way to Belgium, and is now believed to have fled to Germany. VOA correspondent Ayesha Tanzeem makes the journey across the border from Belgium into Germany to see how porous the borders really are.

Video Belgium-Germany Border Remains Porous, Even As Manhunt For Paris Attacker Continues

One of the suspected gunmen in the Nov. 13 Paris attacks, Salah Abdeslam, evaded law enforcement, made his way to Belgium, and is now believed to have fled to Germany. VOA correspondent Ayesha Tanzeem makes the journey across the border from Belgium into Germany to see how porous the borders really are.

Video Islamic State Unfazed by Losses in Iraq, Syria

Progress in the U.S.-led effort to beat Islamic State on its home turf in Iraq and Syria has led some to speculate the terror group may be growing desperate. But counterterror officials say that is not the case, and warn the recent spate of terror attacks is merely part of the group’s evolution. VOA National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more.

Video Taiwan Looks for Role in South China Sea Dispute

The Taiwanese government is one of several that claims territory in the hotly contested South China Sea, but Taipei has long been sidelined in the dispute, overshadowed by China. Now, as the Philippines challenges Beijing’s claims in an international court at The Hague, Taipei is looking to publicly assert its claims. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.

Video Syrian Refugees in US Express Concern for Those Left Behind

Syrian immigrants in the United States are concerned about the negative tide of public opinion and the politicians who want to block a U.S. plan to accept 10,000 Syrian refugees. Zlatica Hoke reports many Americans are fighting to dispel suspicions linking refugees to terrorists.

Video After Paris Attacks, France Steps Up Fight Against IS

The November 13 Paris attacks have drawn increased attention to Syria, where many of the suspected perpetrators are said to have received training. French President Francois Hollande is working to build a broad international coalition to defeat Islamic State in Syria and in Iraq. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video US, Cambodian Navies Pair Up in Gulf of Thailand

The U.S. Navy has deployed one of its newest and most advanced ships to Cambodia to conduct joint training drills in the Gulf of Thailand. Riding hull-to-hull with Cambodian ships, the seamen of the USS Fort Worth are executing joint-training drills that will help build relations in Southeast Asia. David Boyle reports for VOA from Preah Sihanouk province.

Video Americans Sharpen Focus on Terrorism

Washington will be quieter than usual this week due to the Thanksgiving holiday, even as Americans across the nation register heightened concerns over possible terrorist threats. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports new polling data from ABC News and the Washington Post newspaper show an electorate increasingly focused on security issues after the deadly Islamic State attacks in Paris.

Video World Leaders Head to Paris for Climate Deal

Heads of state from nearly 80 countries are heading to Paris (November 30-December 11) to craft a global climate change agreement. The new accord will replace the Kyoto Protocol on Climate Change that expired in 2012.

Video Uncertain Future for Syrian Refugee Resettlement in Illinois

For the trickle of Syrian refugees finding new homes in the Midwest city of Chicago, the call to end resettlement in many U.S. states is adding another dimension to their long journey fleeing war. Organizations working to help them integrate say the backlash since the Paris attacks is both harming and helping their efforts to provide refugees sanctuary. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.

Video Creating Physical Virtual Reality With Tiny Drones

As many computer gamers know, virtual reality is a three-dimensional picture, projected inside special googles. It can fool your brain into thinking the computer world is the real world. But If you try to touch it, it’s not there. Now Canadian researchers say it may be possible to create a physical virtual reality using tiny drones. VOA’s George Putic reports.

Video New American Indian Village Takes Visitors Back in Time

There is precious little opportunity to experience what life was like in the United States before its colonization by European settlers. Now, an American Indian village built in a park outside Washington is taking visitors back in time to experience the way of life of America's indigenous people. Carol Pearson narrates this report from VOA's June Soh.

Video Even With Hometown Liberated, Yazidi Refugees Fear Return

While the northern Iraqi town of Sinjar has been liberated from Islamic State forces, it's not clear whether Yazidi residents who fled the militants will now return home. VOA’s Mahmut Bozarslan talked with Yazidis, a religious and ethnic minority, at a Turkish refugee camp in Diyarbakır. Robert Raffaele narrates his report.

Video Nairobi Tailors Make Pope Francis’ Vestments

To ensure the pope is properly attired during his visit, the Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops asked the Dolly Craft Sewing Project in the Nairobi slum of Kangemi to make the pope's vestments, the garments he will wear during the various ceremonies. Jill Craig reports.

Video Cross-Border Terrorism Puts Europe’s Passport-Free Travel in Doubt

The fallout from the Islamic State terror attacks in Paris has put the future of Europe’s passport-free travel area, known as the "Schengen Zone," in doubt. Several of the perpetrators were known to intelligence agencies, but were not intercepted. Henry Ridgwell reports from London European ministers are to hold an emergency meeting Friday in Brussels to look at ways of improving security.

Video El Niño Brings Unexpected Fish From Mexico to California

Fish in an unexpected spectrum of sizes, shapes and colors are moving north, through El Niño's warm currents from Mexican waters to the Pacific Ocean off California’s coast. El Nino is the periodic warming of the eastern and central Pacific Ocean. As Faiza Elmasry tells us, this phenomenon thrills scientists and gives anglers the chance of a once-in-a-lifetime big catch. Faith Lapidus narrates.

Video Terrorism in Many Forms Continues to Plague Africa

While the world's attention is on Paris in the wake of Friday night's deadly attacks, terrorism from various sides remains a looming threat in many African countries. Nigerian cities have been targeted this week by attacks many believe were staged by the violent Islamist group Boko Haram. In addition, residents in many regions are forced to flee their homes as they are terrorized by armed militias. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video Study: Underage Marriage Rate Higher for Females in Pakistan

While attitudes about the societal role of females in Pakistan are evolving, research by child advocacy group Plan International suggests that underage marriage of girls remains a particularly big issue in the country. VOA’s Ayesha Tanzeem reports how such marriages leads to further social problems.

VOA Blogs