The U.S. and Asia: Toward Economic Integration or Fragmentation?

With the U.S.-China rivalry entering a more dangerous stage, Asia’s stunning economic success in recent decades through greater trade and integration — and its benefits to the United States — is now under strain. Washington has ramped up its security strategy to counter, even contain, China through the AUKUS pact and by backing greater spoke-to-spoke security connectivity between its allies and partners. China’s intrusions in its neighborhood have sparked concerns in South and Southeast Asia. Responding to criticism of a lack of a U.S. economic strategy for Asia, Washington has unveiled a new initiative — the Indo-Pacific Framework for Prosperity (IPEF) — which has attracted fourteen Asian and Pacific states thus far. However, details of the IPEF still remain unclear. The region has not waited for the United States however, and forged ahead with the CPTPP and (ASEAN-led) RCEP trade agreements and the continuing strength of the APEC grouping. Does the U.S. economic strategy in the Asia-Pacific tilt too far toward zero-sum competition and not enough toward cooperation with China? Can the pathway of greater economic integration and trade facilitation continue in the region, and how can American anxieties on potential job losses be addressed? How can the United States and Asia work together to combat common challenges such as climate change and pandemics? To explore these issues in greater depth, the Quincy Institute will host a panel discussion featuring Rebecca Sta. Maria, Executive Director of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Secretariat based in Singapore, Marc Mealy, Senior Vice President-Policy at the US-ASEAN Business Council, and Sarang Shidore, Director of Studies at the Quincy Institute. Michael D. Swaine, Director of QI’s East Asia program, will moderate.


Rebecca Sta Maria

Rebecca Sta Maria is the executive director of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Secretariat based in Singapore where she advises and provides support for APEC’s 21 diverse member economies. Dr. Sta Maria spent years as a top-level civil servant and trade negotiator in Malaysia. As Secretary-General of the Ministry of International Trade and Industry she oversaw the formulation of Malaysia’s positions in major agreements such as the Trans-Pacific Partnership. And, as representative to the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, Dr. Sta Maria chaired the body that drafted ASEAN’s economic community blueprints for 2015 and 2025.

Marc Mealy

Marc Mealy is the Senior Vice President-Policy at the U.S.-ASEAN Business Council. He manages the production of the Council’s information products, coordinates advocacy efforts across our country and industry committees, and serves as the in-house lead on international trade policy. He joined the Council in 2003 as the Senior Director for Malaysia, Philippines and Brunei Affairs as well as Coordinator of the Council's ASEAN Financial Services Working Group. He was named the Vice President in 2010 and promoted to Senior Vice President and of policy in 2017. Marc has over thirty years of experience in international trade and economics and has held positions in both the U.S. executive branch and Congress, in the in the NGO community and as a private consultant to foreign governments and NGOs.

Sarang Shidore

Sarang Shidore is Director of Studies at the Quincy Institute, and is a senior non-resident fellow at the Council on Strategic Risks. His areas of research and analysis are geopolitical risk, grand strategy, and energy/climate security, with a special emphasis on Asia. Sarang has collaborated and published with multiple organizations including the Asian Peace Program, Brookings Institution, Center for Strategic and International Studies, Council on Foreign Relations, Council on Strategic Risks, Oxford Analytica, Paulson Institute, Stimson Center, UK Ministry of Defense, and Woodwell Climate Research Center. He has more than 80 publications to his credit in journals, edited volumes, and media outlets in his areas of expertise. Prior to his current role at the Quincy Institute, Sarang was a senior research scholar at the University of Texas at Austin and senior global analyst at the geopolitical risk firm Stratfor Inc. and earlier also spent a decade in product management in the technology industry.

Michael Swaine (Moderator)

Michael D. Swaine, director of QI’s East Asia program, is one of the most prominent American scholars of Chinese security studies. He comes to QI from Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, where he worked for nearly twenty years as a senior fellow specializing in Chinese defense and foreign policy, U.S.-China relations, and East Asian international relations. Swaine has authored and edited more than a dozen books and monographs, including Remaining Aligned on the Challenges Facing Taiwan (with Ryo Sahashi; 2019), Conflict and Cooperation in the Asia-Pacific Region: A Strategic Net Assessment (with Nicholas Eberstadt et al; 2015) and many journal articles and book chapters. Swaine received his doctorate in government from Harvard University and his bachelor’s degree from George Washington University.