December 5, 2017        Reading Time: 2 minutes

Your weekly digest of foreign policy commentary:

Reading Time: 2 min read

Robin Harding explains that demographic shifts will significantly increase trade flows to Africa. Image credit – rabbit75_dep / deposit photos



Trump in Asia: A ‘Rebalance’ Toward Trade, NPR News, by Satu Limaye, Director of East-West Center in Washington and Senior Advisor at the Center for Naval Analyses

“While every administration calibrates between security and commercial relations, the Trump administration is emphasizing commerce over defense.”

  • Satu Limaye analyses President Trump’s speeches in Asia and highlights that the Trump administration is elevating commercial issues relative to security and political issues.
    • At the 2017 Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in Vietnam, over a third of President Trump’s policy address covered US-Asia economic relations; President Trump refuted the value of “large” agreements and called for “fair” and reciprocal bilateral trade agreements.
    • During his Asia visit, President Trump did not use the phrase “American leadership” or link his call for a “free and open Indo-Pacific” to US alliances or American cooperation with democratic states.
    • Economic relations in the Indo-Pacific remain the President’s core interest. However, the US will likely face challenges in (1) maintaining cooperation with US allies in addressing regional challenges, such as China’s increasing maritime assertiveness, and (2) pursuing tougher negotiations on trade issues.



How Demographic Change Will Drive World Trade, Financial Times, by Robin Harding, the Financial Times’ Tokyo Bureau Chief

“[Demographic shifts] will involve not just a change in the distribution of people, but big changes in their relative age. That will further shape how goods flow around the world.”

  • Robin Harding argues that significant demographic shifts in the 21st century will shape global trade flows.
    • By 2100, Asia and Africa will house more than 80% of the global population, while Europe will house only 6% and North America only 4%. This is likely to cause a significant increase in trade flows between Africa and Asia.
    • Africa could become a significant exporter of basic manufactured goods, since its large population is likely to consist of low-skilled youth. Additionally, youthful populations tend to have higher levels of consumption, which would lead to increased imports into African markets.
    • However, automation and migration may affect the expected changes in global trade. If automation becomes competitive, low-skilled youth become less relevant, and if there is large-scale emigration from Africa, trade outcomes would be different.

Written by Myra Sivaloganathan and edited by Anishka De Zylva.

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