Asia’s ties with the United States will not change regardless of who occupies the White House after Nov 6, two experts on American politics said at a panel discussion in Singapore yesterday.
Whether President Barack Obama wins a second term or is defeated by Republican rival Mitt Romney, the US pivot towards the region is likely to continue, they said at a talk organised by the Singapore Institute of International Affairs.
While China's rise in economic and military power is a concern, it is not a hot-button issue, said Associate Professor Andrew White of Singapore Management University's law faculty, who has held grassroots leadership positions in the Republican party.
"Asia's not really the focus of these candidates," he said. "These guys are worried about Iran, they're worried about what's going on with Israel, they are worrying about what's going on with the economy."
Mr Romney has vowed to brand China a currency manipulator on his first day as president, if he is elected. But Mr Steven Okun, who served in the Clinton administration, said this was simply "campaign rhetoric" and not a sign that US-China relations will significantly change if the Republicans win.
"I don't think there will be a significant difference between a Romney administration and a second term of an Obama administration, when it comes to China," said Mr Okun, who chairs the Asia-Pacific Council of American Chambers of Commerce. "Hopefully, that pivot to Asia will continue no matter who is in the administration."
He said that when factories close in the US and jobs are moved to countries such as China, the negative impacts of trade are easy to see. In contrast, the benefits of overseas trade are not seen as clearly.
"People are voting on the economy and what you try and do is use China to say they're doing a poor job on the economy," he said. "But it's not going to change US-China relations no matter who wins."
The original article, entitled “No matter who wins, US-Asia ties 'will not change'” by Himaya Quasem, was published in the Straits Times on 10 October 2012.