Under Donald Trump, the US has become increasingly alone on the international stage.
One example is the new Asian trade agreement that excludes the US and includes China. After initially gushing over what a great leader China’s Xi Jinping was and praising their response to the covid-19 epidemic, when the pandemic got bad in the US he seemed to realize that he needed a scapegoat to escape blame and started attacking China. But his conflict with China predated that as part of his dislike of multilateral agreements that led to him declaring war on the trade agreements that his predecessors had agreed on with groups of other nations, and his strong criticisms of the NAFTA, WHO, NATO, and the Paris Climate Accord.
One of the thing he withdrew from was the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a deal that was being negotiated by the Obama administration that was designed to exclude China and increase trade links of Asian nations with the US. Trump pulled out of that deal and now those Asian nations have signed a huge trade pact that includes China and excludes the US.
Fifteen Asia-Pacific countries on Sunday signed the world’s biggest free trade deal, seen as a huge coup for China in extending its influence.
The Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) includes 10 Southeast Asian economies along with China, Japan, South Korea, New Zealand and Australia, with members accounting for around 30 percent of global GDP.
The agreement to lower tariffs and open up the services trade within the bloc does not include the United States and is viewed as a Chinese-led alternative to a now-defunct Washington trade initiative.
The RCEP “solidifies China’s broader regional geopolitical ambitions around the Belt and Road initiative”, said Alexander Capri, a trade expert at the National University of Singapore Business School, referring to Beijing’s signature investment project that envisions Chinese infrastructure and influence spanning the globe.
“It’s sort of a complementary element.”
The deal is also seen as a way for China to draft the rules of trade in the region, after years of US retreat under President Donald Trump which have seen Washington pull out of a trade pact of its own, the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP).
When it comes to economic relations with other nations, a key question is whether another country should be viewed as a competitor with whom one can engage for mutual benefit or whether it should be viewed as an adversary and thus part of a zero-sum game in which one nation wins at the expense of the other.
The US, even under Obama, has been ambivalent about what attitude to take with China but Trump has been unequivocal about seeing it as an adversary. So far that policy is not working out so well.
That is not all. A vote at the UN saw the US on the losing side by a massive margin, in one case not having even a single other country standing with it.
The outgoing Trump administration’s final days at the United Nations have resulted in a deepening of US isolation on social and health issues, with only a handful of allies including Russia, Belarus and Syria.
In one vote this week, the US was entirely alone in backing its own amendment to a seemingly uncontroversial resolution about efforts to treat medical complications from childbirth. It called for the removal of references to the World Health Organization (WHO) and the UN Population Fund.
No other nation agreed, with 153 voting against the amendment and 11 abstaining.
A UN diplomat said the spectacle of a western ally and a superpower so totally isolated was “staggering”.
“It’s amazing that they decided they want to put their isolation on record, on full display, like that,” the diplomat said.
Usually there are a lot of backchannel discussions before votes are taken to make sure that the US is not embarrassed by it. To put forward a resolution that absolutely no one else supports is either a sign of utter arrogance or utter incompetence.