Major Free Trade Deals in 2009: Asia = 8, USA = 0
According to Investor's Business Daily, the following trade deals were recently announced in December 2009 and early January:
1. China and Asia's Tigers — the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) — scrapped 7,000 different tariffs to form a $200 billion open market for about 2 billion consumers, one-third of the world's population.
2. ASEAN (Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Phillipines, Singapore, Thailand) signed a free-trade pact with mighty India, ending tariffs on 4,000 products staggered through 2016. This deal will expand a $50 billion market for 1.5 billion consumers into something even bigger.
3. ASEAN also signed off on free trade with Australia and New Zealand, tacking on another $50 billion market to expand for their 600 million consumers.
4. ASEAN signed an agreement with Japan on December 1, which created a $240 billion market for 670 million.
5. Thailand and South Korea completed the last step of 2007's ASEAN-Korea pact, finalizing expansion of the zone to a $72 billion market for 600 million.
6. ASEAN's six freest members — Thailand, Indonesia, Singapore, Philippines, Malaysia, Brunei — enacted a free-trade deal among themselves on Jan. 1, ending tariffs on goods sold to each other, freeing a $60 billion market for 500 million consumers.
7. India announced that three years of talks with South Korea were complete, uniting the third- and fourth-largest economies in the Far East.
8. India's leaders said a one-year deadline for negotiating a pact with the European Union was set.
In contrast, the number of major trade pacts signed by the U.S. in 2008 and 2009: NONE
More from the IBD:
While the Obama administration has put its energy into trade wars with China, enacting punitive tariffs on steel, tires, nylon, paper, and other goods and has signed no new pacts in 2009, free trade is marching on without the U.S.
It underlines the sorry state of affairs going on under the radar with the U.S. on trade. While the Obama administration stalled on three free-trade pacts with Colombia, Panama and South Korea, and enacted protectionist moves like "Buy American" provisos in state contracts, other countries moved on without us.
Unlike the Obama administration, Asian states don't see trade as some party favor to be doled out or withheld for special interest groups for political purposes. It's not without risk, but they see trade as a critical element to secure long-term economic growth.
With subpar growth forecast in the U.S. in the next decade, and unemployment at 10%, it's likely a closed economy that hasn't seen a new free trade pact since 2007 is a key reason. The Asian tiger example ought to be a major spur to get going. Nations that value free trade above politics aren't waiting around.