However, the increased trade protectionism also comes at a time of China’s growing assertiveness as an economic and political power. Its “Belt and Road Initiative” promotes deepening economic and financial ties between Asia, Africa and Europe, with billions of dollars in infrastructure investment.
The policy is certainly paying off, according to political risk consultant Eurasia Group’s report titled Top Risks 2018, as governments across Asia, Africa, the Middle East and even Latin America are pivoting more toward China.
“No country today has developed as effective a global trade and investment strategy as Beijing,” said Ian Bremmer, President of the Eurasia Group in the report. ”China is writing cheques and creating a global architecture while others are thinking locally or laterally.”
South East Asia - watching with interest
Other key South East Asian countries such as Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, Vietnam and the Philippines are watching the situation with interest, given trade wars and any impediments will limit economic growth in the region.
In a Bluenotes interview last year, Goh Chok Tong, currently Emeritus Senior Minister of Singapore and the city state’s second Prime Minister, stressed the importance of Singapore expanding trade ties and offshore investments in the current environment.
“We cannot enlarge the domestic economy but we can enlarge the national economy – meaning Singapore investing outside Singapore,” he said. “That is part of our economy – our investments in China, US, Middle East.”