U.S. Treasury Secretary Jack Lew is touring Asia this week. He will visit Japan, Singapore, Malaysia, and Vietnam and end with a much-anticipated visit to China. What should he be promoting while meeting with high-level officials in the region? Well, economic freedom, of course.
Asia is home to some of the most economically free countries in the world. Four of the top 10 countries in the 2013 Index of Economic Freedom, published by The Heritage Foundation and The Wall Street Journal, are located in Asia. Hong Kong, for example, is a model of freedom in the region and in the world. While the United States has dropped in the Index of Economic Freedom rankings over the past few years, Hong Kong has remained the freest economy in the world. This has been due to a lack of government intervention, lower taxes, and market openness. The U.S. could and should learn from this example.
A successful trip for the Secretary requires his promotion of economic freedom principles in the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) talks. Japan, Singapore, Malaysia, and Vietnam are all negotiating partners in the TPP, which aims to promote free trade and economic freedom among the Pacific Rim countries.
If the U.S. is truly committed to a “deep” and competitive trade agreement, this should show through in Secretary Lew’s visit. This means advocating for liberal rules of origin, tackling state-owned enterprises in participating countries, and protecting U.S. intellectual property. Success will be possible only if the U.S. and its partners stick to the principles of economic freedom during the negotiations.
The U.S. carries vast economic influence, and with any luck, Lew will use some of that capital to solidify prospects for a truly meaningful and liberalizing TPP, paving the way for expanded economic freedom and growth on both sides of the Pacific.
Alex Bezahler is currently a member of the Young Leaders Program at The Heritage Foundation. For more information on interning at Heritage, please click here.