Irrespective of who wins next week’s U.S. presidential election, Asia looks set to lose out as a wave of protectionism makes global free-trade deals more unlikely, said Rob Carnell, chief international economist at ING Groep NV.
“I don’t think we’re going to get an awful lot in the way of big trade deals, which will be the sort of thing that’s very important for Asia, which is a very open region, a very trade-reliant region,” he said at a presentation in Singapore on Friday.
Carnell pointed to Canada’s recent trade agreement with the European Union — which took seven years to conclude and was almost scuppered by objections from Belgium’s Wallonia region — as an example of hardening attitudes toward global trade deals. Asian nations from Singapore to Japan are seeking to benefit from the Trans-Pacific Partnership, an accord that’s opposed by both U.S. presidential candidates, Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton.
“Free trade and the sorts of policies that are likely to be pro-Asia trade and global free trade are likely to be very thin on the ground,” he said.
Developing countries in Asia produced 29 percent of merchandise exports in the world last year, according to data from the World Trade Organization.