By Molly Igoe
Elms Staff Writer
The Goldstein Program in Public Affairs held a lecture entitled “The Growing Importance of Asia for the United States and Maryland” on Thursday, Feb. 18 in the Hynson Lounge. Three experts in Asian politics, Dr. Satu Limaye, Dr. Ellen L. Frost, and Dr. Matthew Daley, discussed how important Asian countries are to the US in economics, politics, and many other areas.
Dr. Limaye is the director of the East-West Center in Washington, which was created in 1960 by Congress to promote the exchange of ideas between Asia and the US. Dr. Limaye described his website, “Why Asia Matters for America,” as a way for people to learn more about Asia and to recognize how important Asia is to the US.
He said, “The United States has been pivoting towards Asia for 150 years, so it is curious to me that people are just emphasizing this pivot now.” He emphasized that although most people think China is the most prosperous Asian nation in terms of trade and global market growth, other nations like Japan, India, and Korea are doing just as well.
To wrap up his short discussion, Dr. Lamaye said, “Most connections made between Asia and the United States are not through the government, but the private sector, like churches and education.” The US must focus on a few strategic “pivot elements,” as he called them, such as alliances and new partners, to become more involved with Asian nations.
Dr. Ellen L. Frost continued the lecture with her expertise on trade and investment issues. Dr. Frost was a Counselor at the US Supreme Court and teaches at the National Defense University. She said in the opening of her discussion, “Economic issues in Asia are entwined with security,” to demonstrate how complex these issues can become.
Many economists have predicted that China’s per capita Gross Domestic Product (GDP) will surpass the US in a few years, but Dr. Frost disagreed with this statement. She said, “The per capita in China is about $8,000, much less than the per capita in America, which is about $57,000, so they still have a long way to go.”
Dr. Frost also discussed China’s support of some anti-Western organizations in recent years, and the idea of a revival of the Silk Road, which would increase trade in Asia. The main point she wanted to get across was that the US needs to step up it’s role in the Asian sphere of events. Dr. Frost said, “There is a slow crisis of legitimacy of United States leadership in Asia.” The only way to fix this is by reforming the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and to be more active in the Asian Pacific Region.
Dr. Matthew Daley, past president of the United States Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) business council, ended the lecture with his topic on why South East Asia is so important. ASEAN was created in 1960 to deal with armed conflict and tensions in the South East Asian region. There are 10 member states: Cambodia, Brunei Darussalam, Indonesia, Lao PDR, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam, which includes about 600 million people.
Dr. Daley said, “South East Asia is the fourth largest export market, and GDP growth rates in nations like Indonesia, Singapore, Thailand, and the Philippines are impressive.” He also mentioned that four percent of exports that go to Maryland are from ASEAN nations, and five percent of exports from Maryland go to the ASEAN region.
However, Dr. Daley said, “Exports to Asia haven’t been increasing, which will have political consequences later on for the United States.” Many nations in Asia, like China, Pakistan, India, and North Korea, have nuclear weapons or the ability to make nuclear weapons, which is important for the US to be aware of.
The knowledge of the three guest lecturers shows that Asia is a necessary asset for the US for economic, political, and cultural reasons. As Dr. Lamaye said, “Asia has so much to offer, like trade, jobs, investment, immigration, education, and the exchange of ideas.”