China: The world's new champion of free trade?

The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) was the largest ever US-proposed trade deal and took years to put together, but US President-elect Donald Trump has promised to withdraw from the deal on his very first day in office.

The TPP, signed by 12 countries in February 2016, covers 40 percent of the world’s economy. But all 12 nations need to ratify it, and Trump’s comments suggest that this will not happen.

As the United States, the world’s biggest economy and the champion of free trade for the past century, is about to back away from closer global economic integration, analysts question whether China has what it takes to be the world’s new champion of free trade.

While China has not signed on to the TPP agreement, it could take advantage of new opportunities as the US takes a more protectionist stance on trade.

China is promoting it’s own pan-Pacific trade pact. The Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) is still being negotiated, but if enacted, it could become the world’s largest free trade bloc.

It differs from the TPP in that it doesn’t require its members to liberalise their economies, or take steps to protect labour rights, environment or intellectual property.

So, is it really the end of the TPP? What does it mean for China and RCEP? And what are the implications on the US, Asia and the global economy?

Deborah Elms, the executive director at the Singapore-based Asian Trade Centre, takes a look at how China could now be positioning itself as the world’s new champion of free trade.

Also on this episode of Counting the Cost:

Made in Australia: In Australia, successive governments have supported free trade, but that long-standing position on foreign competition may now be changing. We went to the Rossi Boots headquarters, in Adelaide, to talk to one of the only companies still manufacturing Made in Australia footwear.

The UK’s JAM families and the cost of Brexit: It’s estimated that leaving the European Union will cost Britain $280m a week over the next five years. In the first budget since Brexit, UK Finance Minister Philip Hammond downgraded his 2017 economic forecast and said the national debt would grow. In fact, it will balloon to above 90 percent of the UK’s gross domestic product. That will wipe out any savings made from not having to pay into the EU’s budget. Will the new budget help the so-called JAM families, those households “just about managing” to make ends meet? Gregor Irwin, chief economist at the Global Counsel, looks at the cost of Brexit.

Iceland’s red hot tourism industry: Iceland is known for its stunning landscapes and hot springs. But soon, there could be no more room in its famous blue lagoon because it’s going through an unprecedented tourism boom and its infrastructure is struggling to cope. Paul Brennan reports from Reykjavik.

Iceland versus Iceland: It looks like a ‘cold war’ might be breaking out between Iceland, the country, and the supermarket chain that bears the same name. That’s because the UK store specialises in frozen food and actually owns the European trademark for using the name Iceland. But now, Iceland, the country, confirmed its taking legal action against the store.

Source: Al Jazeera