In the aftermath of the coronavirus pandemic, there has been an increasing clamor, for reducing imports, especially of essential commodities from China, and for exploring new supply chains.
The US has proposed an ‘Economic Prosperity Network’ consisting of US, India, Vietnam, Australia, New Zealand, Japan, South Korea. US Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo while speaking to the media, reiterated the need for greater cooperation between these countries for pushing forward the global economy, in a post corona world, and also to change existing supply chains.
Similarly, a number of members of the CPTPP (Comprehensive Partnership Trans Pacific Partnership), especially Japan, Singapore and Australia, worked closely, to keep supply chains intact in the midst of covid19 (Japan has also been seeking to expand the CPTPP with the aim of alternative supply chains).
Reducing dependence upon Chinese technologies
Apart from supply chains of essential commodities, steps are being taken to create an alternative to Chinese technologies. UK has recently proposed, that 10 countries work together to counter China’s technologies – especially 5G. This network, Britain has proposed, should include G7 countries (United States, Italy, Germany, United Kingdom, Japan, Canada, France) + South Korea, India and New Zealand. US President Trump further stated, that G7 should be expanded to include India, South Korea, Russia, New Zealand.
Resumption of International travel
While there have been numerous discussions on shifting supply chains from China, another challenge posed by the pandemic is likely to be the resumption of international travel. Interestingly, the US has international flights with China from June 16, 2020. This is in line with the US President’s aggressive stance vis-à-vis China. The reason cited for the US President’s decision was China’s refusal to allow US carriers to fly to China (American companies on the other hand have been lobbying for the resumption of flights). China was then compelled to take back on its decision of US airlines.
China has recently allowed business executives to fly in from Germany and South Korea (China and South Korea have also signed a fast track arrangement to reduce the quarantine period for executives travelling).
Domestic flights within Asia
A number of countries in Asia, including Vietnam and India have opened domestic travel (the latter is likely to resume international flights from June 9 to US and Canada). Vietnam had resumed domestic travel after the easing out of social distancing measures, (since then over 500,000 domestic passengers have been transported). The ASEAN nation began by opening out five tourist destinations. India resumed domestic Air travel on May 25, 2020 and between then and June 1, 2020 over 4,000 flights have been operated.
Japan seeking to revive air travel
Apart from China, one more country which is working towards resuming air connectivity with other countries is Japan (restrictions will remain in place for some time for US, China and South Korea). The countries, with which Japan is exploring the possibility of air travel are; Australia, Vietnam, New Zealand and Thailand. Japan shares close economic linkages with Australia, Vietnam and Thailand (over 1500 Japanese companies operate in the two ASEAN nations, while Japan is dependent upon Australia for farm products). Japan also receives a large number of tourists from these countries.
While Japan is looking to resume international travel for kickstarting the economy with the above countries it is likely to do so in a phased manner; for businesses, then students and finally tourists.
Countries like China, India, Japan, Thailand and Vietnam are looking to revive economic activity and air connectivity, both domestic and international, is essential for the same. It is important, not just to revive air connectivity but also to learn best practices with regard to precautions. It is likely, that other countries will also follow suit (though this needs to be done incrementally).
The real challenge for governments, globally, is likely to be in the months of August and September 2020, when students from different parts of the world, need to travel to the west (especially, US, UK and Canada) for higher education.
The efforts of Japan, New Zealand, Vietnam and Australia yet again reiterate the point, that while all eyes have been on the US and China and their deteriorating relationship, a number of countries have been seeking ways to foster cooperation, not just in dealing with the pandemic, but also for enhancing economic linkages and resuming air connectivity.
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Consulting Editor, Geopolitics with The Dispatch, Tridivesh Singh Maini is a New Delhi-based Policy Analyst. He is associated with The Jindal School of International Affairs, OP Jindal Global University, Sonepat, Haryana. He is a former SAV Visiting Fellow (Winter 2016) with the Stimson Centre, Washington DC. Mr Maini was also an Asia Society India-Pakistan Regional Young Leaders Initiative (IPRYLI) Fellow (2013-14), and a Public Policy Scholar with The Hindu Centre for Politics and Public Policy, Chennai (November 2013-March 2014). His research interests include; the role of Punjab in India-Pakistan ties, the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) and the changing nature of Indian federalism. He is a contributor for a number of publications including; The Hindu, The Diplomat, Modern Diplomacy and The Geopolitics.