Tensions over technology are driving the US-China trade dispute, which is rapidly evolving into a tech war, according to former US Trade Representative for Southeast Asia and the Pacific, Barbara Weisel.
Speaking at The Asia House Global Trade Dialogue in Singapore, the Managing Director, Rock Creek Global Advisors, said the ‘phase one’ deal being negotiated between the US and China “hasn’t touched what’s really at the heart of this, which is the tech war.”
Weisel said structural concerns, such as tech and IP issues, aren’t covered by the “transactional” deal, which leaves room for uncertainty.
“The tech war is expanding,” she said. “And it’s not being addressed.”
Weisel was joined by senior figures from policy and investment at the dialogue to discuss the global trade outlook, with US-China tensions emerging as the key conversation point.
Asked by Michael Lawrence, Chief Executive of Asia House and conference chair, whether Beijing needs to pick up the pace of market reforms, Victor Gao, Vice President, Center for China and Globalization, said China has been reforming for decades.
“For the last 41 years China has always been reforming itself, politically and economically,” Gao said. “Without major reforms in China, how could you explain the Chinese economy’s transformation?”
For Victor Chu, Chairman and CEO, First Eastern Investments, current global conditions are not conducive to investor confidence. Citing the trade war, Brexit and President Trump’s impeachment proceedings, Chu said the private sector “will be second guessing” the markets in the months ahead.
“We’re going to withhold a lot of our investment decisions,” he said. “It really makes me worry about FDI around the world.”
There is, however, some cause for optimism. Anne Ruth Herkes, former State Secretary, German Ministry of Economic Affairs and Energy, pointed to the EU-Singapore FTA and the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership as examples of positive progress.
“This is what we need and where we want to be,” Herkes said. “We live in an interdependent world. That is what we wanted – now we have to shape that world.”
WATCH the full discussion on the global trade outlook at Asia House TV