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South East Asian leaders foreshadow a pivot to the US in the new administration




So what will the presidency of US President-elect Joe Biden mean for south east Asia? And how will it differ from the administration of President Trump?

South east Asia already knows Joe Biden from his term as US vice president from 2008 – 2016, and his “Asia pivot” that provided high-level diplomacy and resources with strategic trade relationships. The Obama-era administration maintained a prickly but ongoing relationship with China and was supportive of the greater region’s checks on China’s march.

President Trump’s relationship with ASEAN has been marked with more defence sales, trade deals and an aggressive stance on trade with China that brought some advantage to south east Asia’s manufacturing powerhouses, including Thailand.

But Trump also pulled out of the Trans-Pacific Partnership after years of talks on the world’s largest low-tariff trade zone. This left ASEAN leaders wondering if the US could still be a reliable trading partner, pivoting the bloc to seek free-trade options elsewhere. This weekend the ASEAN leaders are expected to sign a rival trade deal, the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership, anchored by China. The trade deal will form the largest trading bloc in the world, and excludes the US.

But economic analysts predict the Biden presidency will see America as a more visible ally and supporter of the ASEAN nations.
It’s also predicted that there will be a more hands-on approach to relationships in the region whereas the Trump administration often skipped important regional meetings. Meanwhile Chinese delegations attended all the same meetings.

The fractious trade war with China over the past 2 years has also left a mark on regional trade with winners and losers emerging in the region’s export and manufacturing-reliant economies.

Some countries clearly benefitted from the toxic US-China shock, as supply chains shifted in their direction. Others lost investment from Chinese companies that suffered under the trade restrictions.

Most of the ASEAN leaders, plus the Chinese leadership, have now sent their congratulations to President-elect Biden and are already preparing to court favour with the projected White House administration when it takes over control of the trade levers on January 20, 2021.

Thai PM Prayut Chan-o-cha, heading up south east Asia’s second biggest economy and Washington’s oldest Asian ally, earlier this week said he “looks forward to working closely” with the incoming president. Halimah Yacob, Singapore’s president, praised the president-elect and his running mate, Vice President-elect Kamala Harris.

“This is the historic moment for women minorities in the US and around the world.”

The Chinese foreign ministry sent this message… “We respect the choice of the American people. We congratulate Mr. Biden and Ms. Harris.”

Taiwan’s government has also sent its good wishes to the administration-elect.

Kavi Chongkittavorn, a Bangkok veteran diplomatic commentator says that Joe Biden will “pay attention to issues related to human rights and democratic development, which has been overlooked by the Trump administration.”

Kavi pushes the case that President Trump “paid less public attention than his predecessors to pro-democracy movements and questions of human rights”, dismaying activists from Thailand to Cambodia. Analysts say that situation served to embolden regional ‘strongmen’ such as Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte and Cambodian PM Hun Sen, as well as the former-generals who cobbled together Thailand’s quasi-democratic government, and even Vietnam’s communist leadership.

“Biden will be more attentive and zero-in on Thailand and its future strategic role.”

But ASEAN officials, ahead of meetings in Vietnam this week, say the main concern remains the rapid advance of China’s power. China is now the biggest trading partner with ASEAN and has its eyes firmly set on dominating the South China Sea, as well as completing a network of debt-funded infrastructure projects to realise its Belt and Road Initiative ambitions.

Trump had promised to turn up the economic and military heat on China in a second term, offering south east Asian states—an area his administration defined as the Indo-Pacific—valuable leverage in their negotiations with their neighbourhood superpower.
Biden will have to address the same concerns, experts say.

Le Hong Hiep, an academic at the Contemporary South East Asia ISEAS, the Singapore-based Yusof Ishak Institute, says that Joe Biden will have to seize the chance to remake old friendships.

“No matter who runs the White House, there’s still an increasing convergence of strategic interests in the South China Sea and bilateral economic ties are still flourishing.”

SOURCE: VOA | Reuters


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  1. Avatar


    Saturday, November 14, 2020 at 9:33 am

    Election is not over. PA courts ruled. Michigan is next. Election Fraud was rampant.

    • Avatar

      Perceville Smithers

      Sunday, November 15, 2020 at 3:17 pm

      When you have one side does everything imagineable to suppress the vote then they still come up short, they figure it can only be fraud involved.

      • Avatar

        preesy chepuce

        Monday, November 16, 2020 at 10:04 pm

        When was the last conclusive election result? The last few have seemed a bit dubious really.

  2. Avatar


    Saturday, November 14, 2020 at 4:52 pm

    @john, I fully disagree with your ignorant and baseless comment. Can you show or share any evidence on US voter fraud into this forum? or are you just part of the nonsense, repulsive, conspiracy mambo jambo?

    Please, really, where is the evidence?

    Frankly, I feel sorry for you. If you are so certain that the Election is not over, then please share the evidence you have (which is zero) and we can take it from there.

    What is really sad about people like you is the blatant level of ignorance and disrespect for other people with different opinions than yours.

    I assume that you are a person that is not happy in this beatiful country (as no country is perfect). So please pack your bags and get out of here ASAP.

    • Avatar


      Sunday, November 15, 2020 at 11:09 am

      “What is really sad about people like you is the blatant level of ignorance and disrespect for other people with different opinions than yours.”

      Says while displaying ignorance of the US electoral system and disrespecting another’s (factual) view to the point of suggesting he leave the country.

      You might want to think a bit before posting buddy, you’re making a fool of yourself.

      • Avatar

        Issan John

        Sunday, November 15, 2020 at 10:11 pm

        What “ignorance of the US electoral system” is Maestro displaying?

        Trump lost BOTH the popular vote (as he did before, but by a bigger margin) AND the vote by the Electoral College.

        He agreed that the 2020 elections were the most secure and least fraudulent in US history, then claimed (in the same tweet!) that the Democrats had rigged the elections.

        Regardless of anyone’s politics (or his politics) the guy’s not just a con-man but a fruitcake.

        • Avatar

          preesy chepuce

          Monday, November 16, 2020 at 10:13 pm

          You don’t have to be a fan of Trump to see some of the comments from his detractors as being a bit nobbish. You can deconstruct most presidents and candidates, and find them wanting in many areas, and it’s not restricted to one or other party. “Maestro’s” mindfart about “get out of this country” is an example of weird nobbishness, and of doing the thing s/he’s moaning about. That doesn’t mean I agree with buttaxe either. I don’t really care who the US president is, as long as the markets go in the right direction. Biden’s clover-leaf fetishism is a bit alarming for those of us who want a trade deal and the GBP to USD rate to recover. Regardless of the flaws of Trump, he at least presented a better opportunity for securing a trade deal, and for preventing appeasement of the CCP, which is a major threat to western civilisation. Biden, like Clinton, and Obama, and Gore, and the other Clinton, aren’t great candidates for the job really. There are much abler people out there, but they never get a look-in due to puerile political positioning. Just scraping by against Trump, isn’t really much of an achievement. Anyone genuinely good, would win my a much more significant margin, yet the Democrats keep presenting the voters with abysmal candidates. At least there’s a chance now for the Republicans to find someone half-decent to replace Biden with, after he dithers over the next 4 years, allowing the CCP to grow.

  3. Avatar

    7.62mm of darwin

    Wednesday, November 18, 2020 at 5:16 am

    @maestro….are you also Issan John…I think its better since I am already gone not to come back but follow the royal example and go to Germany when I can

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