Did Trump Finish Off Asian Export-Led Development?

♠ Posted by Emmanuel in ,, at 2/03/2017 06:06:00 PM
Is it really a whole new world? If there's any such thing as a premature call, then it's probably to label Asian export-led development "dead" because of anticipated Trump-led US protectionism. As goes America, so goes the world, some think: When the US shuts its borders to trade, that's all she wrote. However, I would argue that saying that a process that's made any number of Asian countries immeasurably better off is over is way too early. To make a baseball analogy, we're only in the first inning of the Trump horror show.

Consider the following:
  • Trump hasn't even hit Asian countries with massive tariffs yet;
  • Even if he did, it's unlikely for these to stick once disputed at the WTO;
  • Trump will not remain in office forever; 
  • There are several other export markets other than the United States; and 
  • No alternative Asian development model has been mooted.
At any rate, Bloomberg has some commentary to the effect that the next generation of would-be Asian export-led developers are reconsidering following the path of their predecessors. Consider populous (and largely Muslim) Indonesia:
At stake for less developed but relatively open economies is the ability to sustain economic growth rates that for Indonesia at least have hovered around 5 percent, helping lift more of its people into the middle class and giving a large youth population access to jobs. Trade and investment from the U.S. and China, alongside Japan, has helped propel that.

"In the past, emerging markets could have relatively high growth because they could focus their strategy on industrialization and trade,” said Basri, who was finance minister from 2013-2014 and a former chairman of the country’s Investment Coordinating Board. “Now, with the Trump protectionism, they cannot go with trade again.”

Japan, China, Korea, Taiwan and Singapore were aided in becoming industrialized nations as the global economy was open at the time, Basri added. "The rest of the emerging markets probably cannot repeat the success story.”
Glum they are:
Emerging economies generally will struggle in the face of Trump’s policy shifts, with Russia likely one of the few beneficiaries, according to a report from Nomura Holdings Inc. It warned that U.S. protectionism and possible retaliatory measures could intersect with geopolitical tensions, with “no shortage of potential flash points” including the South China Sea and the Korean peninsula.
To paraphrase Albert Hirschman, I'd probably agree that going with a highly unbalanced growth strategy reliant on exports for the most part for generating growth is increasingly unviable. Perhaps a more balanced strategy giving domestic consumption and market development equal billing makes better sense at the current time. With large populations, Indonesia, the Philippines, India, etc. are better placed to substitute some international with domestic demand.

That said, the rigors of international competition are probably not to be dealt away  with so easily if development is the overarching objective.