Trans Pacific Partnership: for countries joining TPP, China looms large, by Lien Hoang, Bloomberg BNA, 4 February 2016.

An edited extract of the original article, For Countries Joining TPP, China Looms Large, appears below.

Walk down a street in Ho Chi Minh City, and there will probably be vendors advertising Korean shirts and Thai jackfruit. Rarely do merchants want to admit they sell products from China, obscuring the fact that it supplies 30 percent of imports into Vietnam.

The distaste for China at the street level is mirrored nationally, as Vietnam taps the Trans-Pacific Partnership to shift away from its largest trading partner and military threat. And it’s not alone. All across the Asia-Pacific region, states are making decisions about the TPP based partly on a country that’s not in the prospective trade bloc: China.

With the exception of Brunei, all TPP members count China as one of their top two partners for either imports or exports—or both. On the one hand, some of the importing nations have come to resent the Asian Goliath, finding it nearly impossible to disentangle their financial dependence on China from their unresolved territorial disputes. On the other hand, among the exporters, China’s stock market chaos and dwindling thirst for commodities has been a catalyst to find new customers. For both groups, the TPP could mean economic opportunity, apart from China…

Daly says TPP countries obsess about pumping up their gross domestic product, often with help from China. Under the trade deal, states from Vietnam to Mexico would seek growth through low-cost exports like shirts, phones or pork. But instead of emphasizing the sheer volume of exports, Daly said they should look to their TPP peer Japan as a model.

“I would say the Japanese have reached a level of wealth such that they don’t really need to push growth,” he told Bloomberg BNA. Japan is approaching a “steady-state economy” because it expands very little, yet maintains high standards for commerce and for quality of life, he said. “They have traditionally focused more and more on high-quality development, rather than simply increasing the quantity of production.”

 

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