[Ip-health] New York Times Editorial: A Retreat From TPP Would Empower China

Thiru Balasubramaniam thiru at keionline.org
Mon Nov 21 03:56:56 PST 2016


The Opinion Pages | EDITORIAL

A Retreat From TPP Would Empower China


NOV. 21, 2016

The limits of President Obama’s ability to reassure the world about
America’s future role in the international sphere was apparent at the
summit meeting of Asia-Pacific leaders in Lima, Peru, on Sunday. There is
no way to ease the concerns of those leaders about America’s retreat from
the 12-nation Trans-Pacific Partnership trade pact, a casualty of
anti-globalization fervor, American politics and, in particular, the
objections of President-elect Donald Trump, who has called it a “disaster.”

The presidential campaign focused on whether the deal, which would lower
import duties and quotas, would benefit American workers. Mr. Trump said it
would not and argued instead for a protectionist approach, including big
tariffs that could end up inciting a trade war.

On Sunday, Mr. Obama again made the case that the trade agreement would be
“a plus for America’s economy, for American jobs,” and failure to sign on
to it “undermines our position across the region.” The Pacific Rim leaders
urged the signatories to move ahead with the deal.

If done right, the pact could stimulate exports while helping to reduce
environmental destruction and improve the lives of workers in countries
like Brunei, Peru, Chile and Vietnam, which were part of the negotiation.
For example, countries that signed the deal would have to adopt minimum
wages, protect endangered species and agree not to discriminate against
foreign businesses in the interest of domestic and state-owned firms.

The agreement, known as TPP, was intended to play a strategic role in
American diplomacy. It was the economic linchpin of Mr. Obama’s effort to
reaffirm the nation’s role as a Pacific power and counter the rising
influence of China, which was not part of the negotiations. Washington’s
abandonment of the pact is widely seen in the region as a blow to American
prestige and an opening for China to negotiate trade rules, win friends
among Asian nations and assert regional leadership.

Some governments took serious political risks to forge the compromises
needed for the TPP. For example, the pact would require Vietnam to
recognize labor unions that are not affiliated with the ruling Communist

Nevertheless, Democrats, including Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders,
joined Mr. Trump in pillorying the deal as written. Mrs. Clinton proposed
changes that would have strengthened it. But with Republicans set to
control the White House and Congress, Mr. Obama abandoned plans to seek
ratification from the lame-duck Congress.

Without TPP, Mr. Obama’s rebalance toward Asia is significantly diminished,
and, if it continues at all, will be more dependent on expanded military
cooperation. The shift has left friends in the region wondering about
America’s future role. Mr. Trump has shown little interest in Asia except
to bash China on trade and currency issues and to raise doubts about the
need to defend half-century alliances with Japan and South Korea. Some
American experts expect him to take a more detached approach to the region,
essentially ceding the space to Beijing.

That would be a serious mistake. Secretary of State John Kerry said in a
speech in September that if TPP is rejected, “we take a step away from the
protection of our interests and the promotion of universal values, we take
a step away from our ability to shape the course of events in a region that
includes more than a quarter of the world’s population — and where much of
the history of the 21st century is going to be written.”

Administration officials say many nations may still choose to ratify TPP
One of them is Japan, whose prime minister, Shinzo Abe, worked most closely
with Mr. Obama on the deal and says he has not given up on selling it to
Mr. Trump. He met with Mr. Trump last week, but there was no sign of
progress on the issue. He did say he was confident the two men could build
a trusting relationship.

There are signs that China will take full advantage of the American shift
to press its own trade vision. The Beijing-backed Regional Comprehensive
Economic Partnership, a rival pact that excludes Washington, is already
getting new attention, including from leaders in Peru and Malaysia who
signed TPP and now plan to focus on trade negotiations with China.

More information about the Ip-health mailing list