U.S.–Southeast Asia Trade Relations in an Age of Disruption



Brian Harding & Kim Mai Tran | Center for Strategic and International Studies

The post-World-War II era has seen extraordinary growth in international trade and the creation of regional and global trading frameworks spearheaded by the United States and anchored in the General Agreement on Tariffs (GATT) and the World Trade Organization (WTO). In recent years, frustration with the WTO’s stalled process had pushed U.S. policymakers to pursue regional and bilateral trade agreements. However, since president Donald Trump came to office in January 2017, U.S. trade policy has undergone a dramatic reorientation, creating enormous volatility and impacting global trade and supply chains. President Trump’s decision to pull out of the Transpacific Partnership (TPP) on the third day of his presidency, his focus on reducing bilateral trade deficits, and his interest in only forging new bilateral trade deals have had widespread implications for U.S.-Southeast Asia economic and political relations.

In many ways, the United States is no longer a predictable trade partner for Southeast Asian countries, and the uncertainty stemming from U.S.-China trade tensions is further affecting U.S.-Southeast Asia trade relations. Meanwhile, Asian regional economic integration and regional trade architecture are moving ahead without the United States at the table.

In many ways, the United States is no longer a predictable trade partner for Southeast Asian countries.

In October 2018, the CSIS Southeast Asia Program hosted a small, high-level roundtable discussion on U.S.-Southeast Asia trade relations. The roundtable focused on the current state of play, emerging changes in the region’s trade architecture, and implications for U.S.-Southeast Asia relations. Participants included former senior trade and economic officials, business leaders, academics, and diplomats. This report summarizes the key findings and conclusions of the roundtable.

CSOS Breif

[To view the original report, click here]

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