From ASEAN Economic Development To Militarization

In Africa, the Trump administration is setting a precedent by replacing economic development with militarization. In Asia, it seeks to couple “rebalancing” in trade with a rearmament drive.

In a recent editorial, The Manila Times expressed concern that relatively benign economic conditions may lead to a false sense of security as “the United States-China trade war may be starting to inflict collateral damage on the economy.”

In the short-term, it is a valid concern for the Philippines and other ASEAN economies that currently benefit relatively benign economic conditions.

But even if the worst excesses of the trade war could be deterred, there are darker clouds in the longer-term horizon. The Trump administration’s new trade protectionism is accompanied by increasingly military stance. The new US Africa strategy heralds changes in other regions as well, particularly Asia.

 

Setting a precedent in Africa

In 2017, the United States had a $39.0 billion in total goods trade with Sub-Saharan African countries and a trade deficit of $10.8 billion. US investment in Africa grew in the Bush years. But in the Obama 2010s, it collapsed.

In the past, US Africa strategy focused mainly on economic cooperation and aid, and secondarily on military cooperation. In the new strategy, the focus is reversed. It downplays economic efforts to boost African prosperity. Second, it sees Africa mainly as a base of Islamic terrorism, which must be defused in the continent. Third, it will no longer support UN peacekeeping missions.

Meanwhile, China’s economic engagement with Africa has soared. In 2016, the value of China-Africa trade was $128 billion, almost three times more than US trade with the continent. Also, China’s Africa investment significantly exceeds that of the US. And China is a large source of aid and the largest source of construction financing, which supports Africa’s ambitious infrastructure development.

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Disclaimer: Dr. Dan Steinbock is an internationally recognized strategist of the multipolar world and the founder of Difference Group. He has served at the India, China and America Institute ...

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Gary Anderson 3 months ago Contributor's comment

Trade wars and militarization are a dangerous mix. Great article.