As the U.S. mulls a digital trade agreement to counter China, it faces a key problem: Many countries in Asia don’t want to join any deal seen as challenging Beijing, whose tech giants are deeply entrenched in the region.
China’s largest corporations like Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. and Tencent Holdings Ltd. have in recent years led a wave of investment into Southeast Asia, which has more than half a billion people rapidly migrating online. Governments in the region have largely resisted U.S. calls in recent years to avoid Huawei Technologies Co. for 5G networks even as they look to America as a counterweight to China on security issues.
While the White House hasn’t made a decision on whether to pursue a deal, people familiar with the plans told Bloomberg this week it could set out standards for the digital economy, including rules on the use of data, trade facilitation and electronic customs arrangements. It would potentially include many of the countries in the Asia-Pacific trade deal that Donald Trump exited from in 2017.
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