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America Risks Being Left Behind in Asia

Author: Evan A. Feigenbaum
November 12, 2009
Financial Times

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As US president Barack Obama makes his way through Asia he will find a dynamic region in ferment. In this new Asia, the US risks eventual marginalisation unless it more actively seeks to shape a new regional economic and political order. The president will find that his actions - or inactions - will have important implications for US interests in the long term. Above all, he needs to reinvigorate US leadership on global and regional trade liberalisation and thus return the US to the centre of the economic agenda that is reshaping the Asian landscape.

At first glance, Mr Obama's challenges appear largely unchanged from those of his predecessors: Korea is divided; China is emerging as a global power; North Korea is continuing its nuclear weapons programme.

But dramatic changes are taking place, as Asia becomes the centre of gravity of the world economy and an engine of global growth. Linked by a growing web of economic and financial connections, a diverse Asia is searching for a common identity - and for ways to turn economic success into greater global clout. The countries of east Asia are fashioning institutions, standards and trade agreements, often without the US.

This new Asian regionalism will challenge US interests in new ways. For instance, China, Japan and South Korea plan to move towards a free-trade agreement.

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