The relationship between the US and Asia will be the single biggest determinant in the evolution of the global economic system. In the absence of adequate reform at the global level, the alternative could be further fragmentation into competing regional blocs. Asia holds the key, combining both dissatisfaction with existing global arrangements with the resources to reconstitute, at least at the regional level, an alternative set of institutions and practices. How Asia responds will partly depend on the policies of the dominant global power, the United States. The Obama Administration faces two specific challenges in organizing American economic diplomacy toward Asia. The global financial crisis is probably the worst since the Great Depression and the domestic political environment which makes it increasingly difficult to formulate a constructive trade policy. Addressing the financial crisis is the top priority. In the trade arena, three issues require prompt attention: the re-establishment of fast-track negotiating authority for the President, the resolution of the Doha Round impasse, and the passage of the KORUS FTA. Finally, in the area of least immediate domestic political sensitivity, the Administration will have to formulate a coherent strategy for responding to the emerging regional and sub-regional policy initiatives within Asia in both the financial and trade spheres.
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