The sealing of the Trans-Pacific Partnership deal was welcomed on Tuesday by the U.S.’s Asian allies as a counterweight against China’s influence and a reassurance to countries in the region which are dependent on its slugging economy – which is seeing its slowest expansion in 25 years.
Although the 12-nation accord still needs approval in Congress and several analysts question whether its impact on the region’s economy will be as great as Washington predicts, the deal is at least seen as a U.S. commitment to playing a bigger role in the region.
“It does at least temporarily halt the seemingly inexorable waning of U.S. influence and the corresponding rise of Chinese influence in the Asian region,” said Eswar S. Prasad, former head of the China division at the International Monetary Fund, during an interview with the New York Times.
Some are also seeing the TPP deal as a way for the U.S. to combat China’s influence on issues beyond trade including its island-building ambitions in the disputed South-China Sea, and its goal of building a regional development bank to compete with Western-led institutions.
Nonetheless, the TPP has, at least, not yet lessened economic ties between China and its neighbors. In fact, several countries completed trade agreements with China after the U.S. announced its “pivot” toward Asia and many now see China as their biggest trading partner.
“The TPP may not be the game-changer the Americans say it will be, but if the TPP failed, it would certainly have been a blow to U.S. credibility, and its conclusion is to be welcomed,” said Bilahari Kausikan, a former permanent secretary of Singapore’s Foreign Ministry. Yet, he cautioned: “This is not going to erode what China does.”.
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