During a recent virtual meeting of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC), local leaders requested to reopen joint trading efforts to support their failing economies. China’s President Xi Jinping openly rejected any notion of protectionism by insisting that globalization, openness, cooperation, contribution, and shared benefits are the only recourse to the financial tolls incurred by the COVID-19 pandemic. Other leaders felt that increased support from the United States would greatly propel trade between the regions under President-elect Joe Biden’s administration.
Protectionist trade policies were implemented in 2017; at the beginning of Trump’s presidential direction. Such policies included tariffs placed on billions of dollars of Chinese products. This approach increased pressures between the nations, propelling the world’s two largest economies into a trade struggle. It also negatively affected APEC’s progress, as trade was deemed a win-lose proposition. Additionally, the countries disagreed on a joint communique on trade and investments, as the United States and China stood at opposing ends of talks. These policies also saw the United States withdraw from the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement in 2017 (now known as the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership CPTPP).
Opposingly, Biden claims to return to multilateralism originally pursued during Barack Obama’s presidency. However, both Singapore’s Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and Malaysia’s Prime Minister Muhyidin Yassin remain cautiously optimistic. They expect the United States to show greater support without automatically throwing their doors wide open. Many agree that any action towards repairing trade communications between the nations and within the APEC forum is a step in the right direction. Overall, it seems clear that free trade between the regions is integral to everyone’s economic recovery, especially during a global crisis.