President Obama is touring three often-overlooked Asian nations this week as part of a multipurpose diplomatic mission. The stated purpose of the trip is to show Washington’s consideration for political development and reform in Cambodia, Thailand and Myanmar. A more important aspect of the trip, at least in the eyes of many in Washington, is building support for greater membership in the Trans-Pacific Partnership.
The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) is one of the least -talked about international commercial negotiations in the world. This relative obscurity has allowed the TPP to develop outside the watchful eye of media or public interest.
It is time for Americans to take a critical look at what could soon be the largest and most influential trade agreement in the world.
The free trade agreement was begun in 2005 as a means of unifying the ambitions of the disparate economies of Brunei, Chile, Singapore and New Zealand. Treaty negotiations have since been joined by the United States, Australia, Peru, Vietnam, Malaysia, Mexico and Canada to create a potentially enormous free trade bloc far greater than any in existence.
If the current round of treaty expansion is successful the TPP will almost certainly welcome the addition of South Korea, Japan, Taiwan and the Philippines in the near future.
Many Americans are vehemently opposed to increased “free trade” and instead support policies that protect the domestic economy. Why is the United States interested in yet another free trade bloc when “free trade” has proven to increase trade deficits and ship jobs overseas? The answer is simple: Washington places foreign policy ambitions ahead of any domestic economic agenda.
The TPP will do nothing to create jobs in the United States, but it might do just enough to slow the rise of China. In 2011 the United States economy carried a trade deficit of $558 billion. The Economic Policy Institute reports that our deficit with China represented nearly half of the loss: $273 billion in 2011.
The people shaping America’s foreign policy would rather see that money divided up amongst several Pacific Rim nations, rather than allowing it to pour into our greatest geopolitical challenger.
China uses the hundreds of billions of dollars we send them every year to build and expand a nation that could soon supplant the United States. In the eyes of the State Department it is better to simply cut off the subsidy to Beijing and redirect it to less threatening shores.
The end result felt in the domestic economy is null. American jobs continue to go overseas and the American economy continues to bleed hundreds of billions each year into the unbalanced global trade system. The only difference between a today and our TPP future is that today our money flows into China, whereas tomorrow it might flow to a dozen other nations.