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21 Jun, 2013

Chinese Analysis: Why developed countries are keen to show united front

By Chen Xiangyang (China Daily)

2013-06-20 – Presidents and prime ministers from the Group of Eight gathered for their annual summit in Lough Erne, Northern Ireland last Monday and Tuesday. Although the unprecedented financial crisis has somewhat played down the significance of the G8 summit, it was the former US government subcontractor Edward Snowden’s revelations about the US National Security Agency’s program to clandestinely scoop up information from around the world, that really made a mess of the G8 summit, throwing US President Barack Obama off-balance.

But the G8 summit did show that the developed countries, in particular the G7 (Russia is still considered as an “outsider”), are seeking to “re-activate” and inject new vitality into their old economic, political and security alliance in the face of the collective rise of emerging economies

There are several reasons why the developed countries led by the US are eager to upgrade their economic and security cooperation and coordination.

First, it is the outcome of Washington’s renewed strategic rebalancing in its bid to maintain its global supremacy.

The US is striving to reset its global geostrategic layout by rebalancing its “pivot to Asia” strategy, increasing the input of strategic resources into the Atlantic region and paying more attention to its European allies and the Middle East. The high-level personnel changes in Obama’s diplomatic and security teams since he secured a second term in office reflect the adjustments in the Obama administration’s overseas strategic priorities. The new Secretary of State John Kerry is paying more attention to the EU and the Middle East than his predecessor Hillary Clinton, and newly appointed national security adviser Susan Rice is also focusing more on the EU and the Middle East than her predecessor Tom Donilon.

Second, since 2008, developed countries have been battered by financial and debt crises that have exacerbated domestic political and social conflicts. The US and European countries are attempting to “re-activate” their traditional alliance in order to weather the crises and sustain their economic superiority.

Since President Obama began his second term, the US has been paying equal strategic focus to both the Pacific and Atlantic by simultaneously pushing both the Trans-Pacific Partnership and the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership.

The continued importance the US places on the transatlantic relationship with its European allies was shown by Kerry choosing Europe as the destination for his first overseas trip after taking office and the remarks of US Vice-President Joe Biden at the Munich Security Conference in February, when he said European countries were “America’s oldest and our closest allies. And it’s hard to imagine a single threat or a single opportunity that cannot be addressed more effectively if we do so together.”

Washington also hopes promoting “economic diplomacy” will expand external markets and so create jobs at home, thereby strengthening the domestic foundation for its global hegemony. For example, it is estimated that a successful conclusion to the EU-US trade negotiations would boost the trade in goods and services by almost $160 billion, while creating two million jobs in the two economies.

By integrating their markets now, the US and Europe would, through their combined economic power, secure their ability to set the market standards for the rest of the world. The shift of the global economy’s center of gravity to Asia cannot be stopped, but a successful deal between the US and the EU would delay its impact on their influence. No wonder Obama said it is the core economic agenda of his second term.

But, of course, the negotiations for both the Trans-Pacific Partnership and the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership will be a long and brutal bargaining process.

Third, the developed countries are keen to work together to cope with the changing global situation. Emerging economies are rising collectively and, with the help of their own cooperative mechanisms, such as BRICS – the grouping of Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa – are gaining more say than before in global affairs and seeking ways to address regional hotspot issues and global challenges in the current international system. The development momentum of emerging economies and their joint efforts to reform the existing international order are viewed as a threat to their dominance by developed countries. Therefore, the G7 countries want to keep a tight hold on their power to formulate new international trade rules and market standards.

In face of the developed countries’ new cooperative initiative, China as the largest developing country will need to be on the alert and make accurate assessments about its impact and respond appropriately.

The author is deputy director of the World Politics Research Institute, affiliated to the China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations.