Crafting Asia Economic Strategy in 2013

By traveling to Southeast Asia immediately following his reelection in November 2012, President Barack Obama made clear that “strategic rebalancing” to the Asia-Pacific region will remain a central focus of his second-term foreign policy. In a speech at CSIS previewing the trip, National Security Adviser Thomas Donilon said, “The United States is a Pacific power whose interests are inextricably linked with Asia’s economic security and political order. America’s success in the twenty-first century is tied to the success of Asia.”

Economics is critical to Asia-Pacific affairs and to U.S. interests there. The region accounts for roughly half of global GDP and trade and includes some of the world’s fast-growing economies. American growth and jobs increasingly depend on trade and investment with Asia, and many of the rules of the global economic system over the coming decades will be shaped there. Effective U.S. economic policies in the region are thus an essential complement to other dimensions of the rebalancing strategy, reinforcing and being reinforced by the military, diplomatic, and political elements.

In an effort to provide practical assistance to U.S. policymakers grappling with these challenges, a CSIS task force set up in 2008 released a report offering 14 “lessons learned” from over 30 years of U.S. economic policy engagement with Asia. As another presidential election approached in 2012, CSIS reviewed the previous list with a similar group of experienced experts, who agreed that most of the lessons remain valid today and offered their own simple list of “do’s” and “don’ts” for administration policymakers as they pursue economic initiatives with major Asian countries. With the help of regional experts who participated in a series of roundtable discussions in the fall of 2012, CSIS also prepared short papers on a number of key economies of the Asia region: China, India, Japan, Korea, and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). These papers, presented here, are intended to offer practical advice to Obama administration policymakers as they set a strategic course for economic relations with these important countries over the next four years.

Victor Cha
Senior Vice President for Asia and Korea Chair

Ernest Z. Bower