At a recent economic summit in Peru, leaders of Pacific Rim nations in Asia and the Americas made clear their support for the Trans-Pacific Partnership — with or without the U.S. But some also said they may throw in with a competing approach to free trade: the regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership, a trading bloc being assembled by the People’s Republic of China. Their statements underscore the geopolitical risks that the U.S. will take if it does not embrace the deal it helped negotiate with 11 other Pacific nations.
The TPP was always going to be a tough sell in Congress, as a growing number of Republicans have joined most Democrats in questioning the value of free-trade deals. But the pact became radioactive during the presidential campaign. President-elect Donald Trump said Nov. 21 that he would issue a notice of intent to withdraw the U.S. from the as-yet unratified TPP on his first day in office, and later seek bilateral trade deals with some of its participants.
The concerns about lost jobs and decreased U.S. flexibility are valid, yet the right answer isn’t to pretend that globalization isn’t happening. It’s to push global competition in a direction that works for this country as well as its trading partners, while doing more to help American workers adapt to the new reality. That process starts with deals such as the TPP, which requires other nations to live by labor, environmental and intellectual-property regulations more like ours.
There may be a way forward for Trump. Leaders of several TPP nations have indicated a willingness to tweak the TPP — the kind of renegotiation he has said he wants, although the changes ultimately may just be cosmetic. Rather than simply withdrawing from the pact, he should accept that invitation.
FROM AN EDITORIAL IN THE LOS ANGELES TIMES