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Widespread Consequences May Come From Recent Asian Political Changes

Following a recent visit to Canada by China’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Wang Yi, during which the official expressed public outrage over questions asked by reporters, Park Strategies’s Sean King says he notices a developing trend. King sees that Beijing is increasingly insistent in expressing its views to Ottawa on international matters, and China’s behavior could change future partnerships.

“Canada should keep this in mind when also weighing whether to join the (Beijing-led) Asian Infrastructure Bank,” King said. Ottawa had refused to join the bank when Stephen Harper was prime minister.

King believes Beijing may also interject on the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), a 12-member deal currently awaiting ratification. The deal is considered a counter-move to China’s increased economic prominence. The United States, Japan, and Canada are already members of the partnership, but other countries, such as Taiwan, may also want to join. King thinks Beijing could try to block Taiwan from entering the partnership.

“Beijing can say to TPP members, ‘Listen, if you want a bilateral trade deal with us, you better not let Taiwan into the TPP,’ and the first market that comes to mind would be Canada under Justin Trudeau,” King said. “I think (Japanese Prime minister Shinzo) Abe or (U.S. Democratic presidential candidate) Hillary Clinton would tell Beijing to go spit, but I think Prime Minister Trudeau would at least listen to what they have to say.”

However, King acknowledges that discussions about TPP may amount to nothing if an anti-trade president is elected in this year’s U.S. elections. If Washington does not ratify the partnership, the deal will not go forward at all.

Another potential wrinkle in South Asian politics comes from the Philippines, where Rodrigo Duterte, whose behavior is often likened to Donald Trump’s, was recently elected. King said that Washington is approaching Duterte’s election cautiously, as Manila’s part in the TPP depends on China.

“Duterte’s election doesn’t hurt America’s relationship with the Philippines per se, as our two countries’ relationship is based on long-standing shared values,” King said. “But it does mean we can no longer just assume Manila is in our corner. I think it’s safe to say Duterte’s listening to offers from Beijing.”

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