President Obama is making all last-ditch efforts to get the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade deal signed before he leaves office, the latest of which serves to stress that the agreement won’t be a bigger boon for China than the U.S.
In a recent op-ed for Yhe Washington Post, cross posted with the Office of the Unites States Trade Representative (USTR), the president said the Asia-Pacific region is on its way to becoming the most “populous and lucrative” market in the world.
“Increasing trade in this area of the world would be a boon to American businesses and American workers, and it would give us a leg up on our economic competitors, including one we hear a lot about on the campaign trail these days: China,” Obama wrote.
The 11 Pacific Rim nations that are part of the pending TPP deal (Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore and Vietnam) represent roughly 40 percent of the global economy. The agreement was signed on Feb. 3 but now awaits Congressional approval.
China isn’t the type to get left behind because it wasn’t invited to the TPP trade party. The country is working on settling its own alternative to TPP, the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), before the end of this year.
“As we speak, China is negotiating a trade deal that would carve up some of the fastest-growing markets in the world at our expense, putting American jobs, businesses and goods at risk,” Obama wrote last week.
The China-backed RCEP agreement is between the 10 member states of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), which include Brunei, Myanmar, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam, plus the six nations ASEAN already has free trade agreements with, including Australia, China, India, Japan, South Korea and New Zealand.
Negotiations on the pact started in 2012 and have reportedly included talks of covering trade in goods and services, intellectual property and dispute settlement mechanisms.
The president said, to the contrary, that the trade deal won’t prevent unfair competition among government-subsidized, state-owned enterprises, it won’t protect a “free and open” Internet, and it won’t respect intellectual property in the way that it should to protect creators. It also won’t enforce better labor standards for workers.
TPP, however, does do all of that—it just can’t do anything if it doesn’t go into effect, Obama said.
“None of this will happen if TPP doesn’t become a reality,” the president said. “That’s because the Asia-Pacific region will continue its economic integration, with or without the United States. We can lead that process, or we can sit on the sidelines and watch prosperity pass us by.”
If TPP doesn’t get finalized, according to Obama, American business will lose competitive access to Asian markets, and products from farmers, ranchers and small business owners would run into barriers abroad.
“I understand the skepticism people have about trade agreements, particularly in communities where the effects of automation and globalization have hit workers and families the hardest,” the president wrote. “But building walls to isolate ourselves from the global economy would only isolate us from the incredible opportunities it provides.”
America should write the rules of trade, not China, according to President Obama, and TPP, he said, provides the power to do that.
“My administration is working closely with leaders in Congress to secure bipartisan approval for our trade agreement, mindful that the longer we wait, the harder it will be to pass the TPP,” Obama wrote.