People distribute leaflets to passers-by during a rally against Japan's participation in the Trans pacific Partnership (TPP) free trade talks in front of the Ryogoku Kokugikan in Tokyo, on Nov. 8, 2011. The Obama administration is seeking ways to achieve TPP during the APEC meeting. [Xinhua photo]
Following the conclusion of the G-20 Summit in Cannes, France, the annual Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) talkfest is set to get underway at the APEC Leaders' Meeting in Hawaii, the United States. People seem to be looking forward to the gathering, hoping that the chill spread by the looming double-dip recession of the world economy would be "warmed up" a little on this tropical island. The importance of APEC on the economic front is paramount, because APEC members account for approximately 40 percent of the world's population, 54 percent of the world's GDP and 44 percent of world trade.
Though local Hawaiians are fascinated about the Aloha shirt in leaders' gift bags, they are more excited to embrace APEC with that famous Aloha spirit: thinking good thoughts, emoting good feelings, and sharing goodness with others. Despite this, the meeting appears to be a faceoff between the U.S. and China. The Obama administration is focused on three themes: deepening regional economic integration, promoting green growth, and strengthening regulatory cooperation. China is looking into practical results accordingly: implementing the APEC Leaders' Growth Strategy adopted at the Leaders' Meeting last year, continuing to promote regional trade and investment based on the Bogor Goals, increasing green growth according to the different abilities of individual members, and restructuring economic cooperation in a more open policy environment.
At first glance, the two countries are strategizing toward the same goals. However, when we read between the lines, China's dissatisfaction with America's aggressive proposals to promote regional integration and green technology is noticeable. Moreover, the U.S. Treasury intends to use the APEC meeting to push for China to allow the RMB to appreciate more rapidly, in order to fulfill Beijing's G-20 commitment. China cannot be delightful when the U.S. blames RMB for America's recession.
However, everything happens for a reason. The faceoff between China and the U.S. is an inevitable outcome of China's rejuvenation in America's Pacific Century. After hunting down Saddam Hussein and Bin Laden, the U.S. is set to end the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Meanwhile, America's economic crisis calls for the U.S. government to take concrete steps to boost its economy and create jobs. A diplomatic re-navigation back to Asia Pacific is expected. Many people believe that America's Pacific Policy is designed to constrain China's growth. However, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton asserted before this APEC meeting that a thriving America is good for China and a thriving China is good for America.
But, let's face facts: Economic friction is unavoidable, even if a spirit of cooperation exists. The U.S. economic recovery depends on its exports and the ability of American firms to appeal to Asian consumers, particularly Chinese. In order to assist American companies, the Obama administration will take down China's trade barriers, which include subsidies, insufficient intellectual property rights protection, discriminatory government procurement, and undervalued labor costs. Furthermore, to maintain a peaceful and secure strategic environment for itself, the U.S. must enter the South China Sea dispute, the North Korea nuclear nonproliferation talks, and military transparency dialogue with Pacific nations. Any of the aforementioned issues could trigger a conflict with China's national interests. As Hillary Clinton said, this is a very challenging relationship.
Having realized the problems with China, the Obama administration is also seeking ways to bypass China in order to achieve regional economic integration during the APEC meeting. The sidelined Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) negotiation aims to bring a handful of APEC member countries into a single trading system. Japan is planning to join the partnership despite strong domestic opposition to the plan. For the United States Trade Representative (USTR), the TPP is a great leap after the U.S.-Korea Free Trade Agreement (FTA) in terms of advancing trade liberalization. The partnership will create better growth, and strong protections for workers, environment, intellectual property, and innovation. The TPP will also negotiate rules on State Owned Enterprises (SOE) during this APEC meeting, requesting that SOEs do not benefit from subsidies which are not available to private firms. Commentators believe that the SOE negotiation reveals TPP's exclusivity to China.
On the bright side, the APEC Leaders' Meeting is a well-developed institution where top leaders can raise disagreements and ministers can work together to reach agreements. Despite the fact that the U.S. and China disagree on the three themes, both countries are determined to build a harmonious and stable Asia-Pacific region by promoting economic integration and green growth. After all, we will see a peaceful APEC event.
For the "Aloha" people of Hawaii, the APEC Leaders' Meeting brings absolute goodness. The Hawaii hosting committee displays the island's rich resources through APEC, from tourism to education, from green technology to film making. With the expected easing of tourist visa regulations for Chinese citizens, the local chambers are particularly enthusiastic to promote Hawaii to Chinese guests. The ties between American and Chinese people will become stronger. 2011 is the 100th anniversary of the Revolution of 1911, and Honolulu is the place where Mr. Sun Yat-sen founded the Revive China Society in 1894. Maybe the Aloha spirit has always been with us, blessing people to embrace goodness.
The author is a freelance policy analyst based in Beijing.
Opinion articles reflect the views of their authors, not necessarily those of China.org.cn.