觀察者網》「印太經濟架構」動靜很大,實質很虛(湯姆·福迪)

美國總統拜登(中)23日與日本首相岸田文雄(左)及印度總理莫迪一起宣佈啓動「印太經濟架構」(IPEF)。圖/美聯社

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美國正準備拉亞洲國家啓動一項名爲「印太經濟架構」的計劃。根據白宮的說法,該框架將尋求在該區域「制定經濟交往規則」,特別是關於投資、技術和供應鏈。由於美國的商業保護主義政策,它被排除在該區域兩個主要自貿協定即RCEP和CPTPP之外,因此美國急需加強其在亞洲的經濟存在。

然而,「印太經濟架構」並沒有實際的內容,僅僅是一個口號。這個計劃拉了一些亞洲之外或與該區域經濟聯繫不大的國家,製造了一個光怪陸離的概念,試圖決定遊戲「規則」,同時試圖假裝該區域最大的經濟體和貿易國中國並不重要。充其量,「印太經濟架構」只是一個口號,實質上是空的。

中國是該區域的樞紐和貿易中心。這不是政治的產物;而是地理的產物。作爲最大和人口最多的國家,中國自然擁有亞洲最大的進口和出口市場,使中國成爲其周圍每個國家(包括美國盟友)最大的雙邊貿易伙伴。

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這種密切互補的貿易隨後產生了法律需求,要求各國統一標準和法規,這推動了所謂的「區域一體化」進程,即各國就共同關心的問題討論和協調治理。

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這種區域一體化進程是推動RCEP以及中國與亞太國家雙邊自貿協定的原因。截至目前,中國還在談判加入CPTPP進程中,同時還在談判一項數字貿易協定。該區域的其他國家認爲與中國達成此類協議對於改善其經濟和監管至關重要。

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與此同時,美國沒有加入亞太區域的任何主要自貿協定,特別是美國強調「美國優先」,反對自由貿易,理由是自由貿易會削弱美國製造業的競爭力和就業機會。

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儘管如此,美國仍執著於以遏制中國爲名,不惜一切代價在亞洲發動一場區域意識形態的競爭,企圖將該區域劃分爲相互競爭的集團。因此,美國認爲應由美國而不是中國在經濟上主宰該區域。相對於中國而言,美國自認對該區域的未來擁有最大的發言權。

所以,「印太經濟架構」是美國試圖制定該區域規則的努力,而實際上美國與該區域經濟聯繫甚少。「印太經濟架構」不是一個自貿協定,不是一個條約,不是一個機構或一個多邊機構,也不是任何實質性的東西,它只是一套規則和原則,美國認爲靠它能孤立中國。

在發起「印太經濟架構」時,美國可能會向該區域的主要夥伴,包括韓國、日本、澳大利亞和新西蘭發出呼籲。雖然東盟是美國尋求控制的焦點,但最終東盟國家都不準備放棄與中國的經濟關係,因爲它們認爲這對其增長戰略至關重要。

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當然,這並不奇怪,韓國在其新任親美總統的領導下,已經宣佈將加入該框架。鑑於韓國在全球半導體供應鏈中的作用,這似乎很重要,而美國熱衷於孤立中國。但實際上,韓國將繼續全面依賴中國作爲其最大的雙邊貿易伙伴,包括在半導體領域,而且無法承擔升級對抗的代價。去年,美國試圖阻止韓國代工廠海力士在中國擴產,卻未獲成功。

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在美國推動「印太經濟架構」過程中,日本很可能是一個比韓國更重要的合作伙伴,但需要質疑的是,日本是否真準備損害密切的中日經貿關係?在亞洲各國的貿易、金融和基礎設施投資領域,日本不斷被吹捧爲中國的替代。日本近年來也有一些明顯的舉措。例如,日本在越南胡志明市建設地鐵系統,同時還與中國競爭印尼高鐵項目。然而,這遠遠不是爲整個區域「制定規則」,因爲在現實中,中國的GDP遠遠大於日本,而日本的經濟實際上是停滯的,即使是日本也只能承認現實。

這一原則同樣適用於新西蘭和澳大利亞。澳大利亞基本上緊跟美國,但新西蘭對與中國經濟一體化採取了務實和現實政策,因爲新西蘭從對中國出口中獲得了創紀錄的貿易順差。

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最後,印度可能被視爲中國在更廣泛的「印太」區域的最大潛在對手,至少印度人口規模和市場潛力接近中國。美國及其盟友從未隱瞞將印度視爲在戰略、軍事和經濟上制衡中國崛起的事實,這也是絕對成立的。

然而,在經濟層面上,印度如何促進「印太經濟架構」?印度堅定不移實行經濟保護主義政策,拒絕與該區域的貿易融合。印度退出RCEP帶來很大劣勢,使印度無法制定遊戲「規則」。美國及其盟友幾乎肯定會試圖在印度建立戰略供應鏈。但基礎設施不足、大規模失業、高貧困水平和大量農業人口,都是印度與中國競爭的長期障礙。

綜上所述,「印太經濟架構」最終會是無稽之談,因爲它忽視了地理和經濟的現實,完全基於意識形態,甚至是一廂情願的幻想。美國認爲它對該區域未來的影響比中國這個實際最大的經濟體和貿易國更大,這不符合邏輯,加上其他許多原因,導致該計劃只能落空。因此,「印太經濟架構」不僅沒有提供什麼,而且最終也沒有什麼意義,正是由於這個原因,這樣一個由口號驅動的政策幾乎毫無疑問將是一個失敗。

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美國認爲能主宰一個區域的未來,同時以美國利益的名義逃避對該區域作出嚴肅的經濟承諾。未來不是美國所設想的。亞洲各國的經濟未來依賴於與中國建立強大夥伴關係,除此沒有其他方案。(作者爲英國作家、國際關係分析人士)

The US Indo-Pacific Framework Doesn’t Really Offer Anything

By Tom Fowdy

The United States is preparing to imminently launch a program for Asian countries which it calls the “Indo-Pacific Economic Framework”. According to the White House, this framework will seek to “set the rules of economic engagement” in the region, particularly concerning investment, technology and supply chains. It comes amidst pressure upon the United States to up its economic presence in Asia, having excluded itself from the two major trading blocs of the region, the RCEP and the CPTPP due to its protectionist policies on commerce.

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However, there is no actual substance on what the “Indo-Pacific Economic Framework” actually represents in real terms, other than being an actual slogan which facilitates the bizarre rendering of a country which is not based in Asia or physically present in the regional economy, attempting to dictate the “rules” of how the game ought to be played, all whilst attempting to act as if the largest economy and centre of trade in that region doesn’t matter. At best, the Indo-Pacific economic framework is a slogan, and one which in substance offers nothing at all.

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China is the regional nexus and hub of trade in the Asia-Pacific region. This is not a product of politics; it is a product of geography. As the largest and most populated country, China naturally possesses the largest import and export market in Asia, making China the biggest bilateral trading partner of every country around it include those aligned with the United States. Such heavily overlapping forms of trade subsequently create legal pressures for standards and regulations to be harmonized between countries, which drives the process of what is known as “regional integration”- that is when countries pool and coordinate aspects of governance together on matters of mutual interest.

This process of regional integration is what has driven the RCEP free trade agreement, as well as China’s bilateral free trade agreements with most countries in the region. As of present, China is also negotiating entry to the CPTPP free trade agreement, as well as a digital trade agreement with the region. Other countries in the region see obtaining such agreements with China as critical to securing their economic and regulatory interests. Meanwhile, the United States is currently not present in any major trading blocs with the Asia-Pacific region, particularly because its policy is focused on “America First” principles which espouses opposition to free trade on the premise that such erodes American manufacturing competitiveness and jobs.

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Despite this, the United States is obsessed with bringing a regional ideological competition to Asia at all costs in the name of containing China, seeking to divide the region into competing blocs. As a result, the United States believes that it should economically dominate the region and not China, and that it, as opposed to Beijing, ought to have the greatest say in its future. As a result, the “Indo-Pacific Economic Framework” is an effort by the US to try and set the rules of region whilst not actually being economically integrated with it at all. The Indo-Pacific Economic Framework is not a free trade agreement, not a treaty, not an institution or multilateral body or anything substantial, it is merely a set of rules and principles which the US thinks it can utilize to isolate China.

In formulating the “Indo-Pacific economic framework”, the United States is likely to make an appeal to its primary partners in the region, including South Korea, Japan, Australia and New Zealand. Whilst ASEAN is the primary focus which the US seeks to dominate, ultimately none of these countries will be prepared compromise their economic ties with China which they see as critical to their own growth strategies. It is not surprising of course that, South Korea already, under its new pro-US president Yoon Seok Yeol, has announced it would “join” the framework. Whilst this may seem significant given its role in the global semiconductor supply chain, something the United States is keen to isolate Beijing from, in practice Seoul continues to rely overwhelmingly on China as its largest bilateral trading partner, including too in semiconductors, and cannot afford the price of increased confrontation. Last year, the US attempted to block the expansion of South Korean foundry Hynix in China. The move was unsuccessful.

Japan is likely to be a more prominent partner for the US in pushing the “Indo-Pacific framework” than Seoul, but again one must question is it truly prepared to make serious compromises to its heavily integrated commercial relationship with China? Tokyo is constantly touted to represent an alternative source of trade, finance and infrastructure investment to other countries in Asia than China, and there have been some obvious initiatives to try and push this in recent years. One might note for example how it is building a metro system in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, whilst it has competed with China for High-Speed-Rail projects in Indonesia too. However, this is far from a bid to “set the rules” of the entire region because in reality, China’s GDP is ultimately far larger than Japan’s, an economy which is in practice stagnant. Even Tokyo cannot divorce itself from reality. The same rule applies for both New Zealand and Australia. Whilst the latter is overwhelmingly loyal to the United States, Wellington has taken a pragmatic and realistic view to economic integration with China on the back of the record trade surplus it receives from exports there.

Finally, India might be perceived as the biggest potential rival to China in the broader “Indo-Pacific” region primarily because of its almost equal population size and market potential. The United States and its allies have never hidden the fact they see New Delhi as the key strategic, military and economic counterweight to China’s rise, and it is absolutely logical. However, on an economic level, how can India facilitate the “Indo-Pacific economic framework?” A big problem lies in India’s steadfast economic protectionist policies which has shunned integration with intra-regional trade at large. India withdrew from the regional comprehensive economic partnership, putting it at a distinct disadvantage and making it impossible for New Delhi to set the “rules” of the game. However, the US and its allies will almost certainly look to attempt to consolidate strategic supply chains in a rising India. However, insufficient infrastructure, large scale unemployment, a huge level of poverty and a majority agrarian population, all stand as long-term obstacles to India’s ability to compete with China.

Therefore, in conclusion, the Indo-Pacific economic framework remains ultimately nonsensical because it is ignoring the realities of both geography and economics and is based solely upon ideology, if not wishful thinking. The US thinks that it can have greater weight over the future of the region than the actual biggest economy and trading nation in that specific area, making it illogical and for many reasons, a non-starter. As a result, the “Indo-Pacific Economic Framework” not only offers little, but ultimately means little too, and it is for this reason that such a slogan driven policy is almost undoubtedly going to be a failure. The United States believe they can dictate the future of a region whilst exempting themselves from making serious economic commitments to it in the name of self-interest, that’s not how things work, and there is no scenario whatsoever whereby the nations of greater Asia can envision an economic future for themselves which does not include a robust partnership with China.

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(本文來源觀察者網,寧櫟翻譯,授權中時新聞網刊登)

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