Today, President Trump signed an executive order that begins the process of the US pulling out of the Trans-Pacific Partnership. This was a campaign promise and a rallying cry of Donald Trump, with him arguing that the TPP pulled jobs away from the United States to China or to Mexico, et cetera. In this argument, he became ideologically aligned with Bernie Sanders.
But in order to pass judgement on the TPP, one must understand what it is. Basically, the TPP is a 12-nation trade agreement that cuts tariffs and seeks to encourage trade between all nations involved. Collectively, the TPP’s member states would have a population of around 800 million, or double that of the EU. What it would do is increase trade, and increase competition and cooperation internationally.
Some, like President Trump and Senator Sanders oppose the TPP because they argue that it takes jobs away from the US, and benefit big businesses. These are legitimate arguments that mustn’t be ignored, even if Trump advocates for these arguments with the vocabulary of a 4th-grader.
However, there is another aspect of the TPP that must be considered. First, China would not be in the TPP. Trade agreements like the TPP generally strengthen ties between the nations involved, and the US needs to have better relations in the Pacific to stave off the influence of China. Nations like Vietnam, Malaysia, Chile, and Peru have agreed to participate in the TPP, however if they can’t they might turn towards China for trade, which hurts the US in the long-term.
Personally, I believe that the TPP does need some refinement. This agreement would favor big businesses, and draw some jobs out of the United States, and something needs to be done about that. I’m not an economist, but there are some steps that need to be taken in that area. However, I believe that President Trump is being incredibly short-sighted here. Jobs can come and go, they are certainly important, however if we curb the influence of China in the Pacific, that limits them far more than we could imagine.
It is imperative that the United States oppose the anti-democratic agenda of the PRC, and repealing the TPP would be a win for China in the long-term. The TPP is not perfect, and both sides have valid arguments. However, these trade deals have a wider meaning than is clear, and part of it is that it would be unwise for the US to pursue isolationist, protectionist policies like President Trump is promising. Trade deals like NAFTA and the TPP have to be renegotiated to ensure fair practices, however they demonstrate to the World that the US is willing to participate, which is far more important in this century than a few thousand jobs which could easily be replaced.