Trans-Pacific Partnership: US trade tsar warns TPP scrapping carries costs

Many see Trump’s victory as a rejection of deeper commercial ties

Afp November 19, 2016
US President Barack Obama (3rd R) taking part in a meeting with leaders from the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) at the US Embassy in Beijing in 2014. PHOTO: AFP

LIMA: US Trade Representative Michael Froman warned of ‘serious’ strategic and economic costs from scrapping a major trans-Pacific trade deal on Friday, as proponents lobbied hard to overcome president-elect Donald Trump’s opposition.

Acknowledging that the fate of the 12-nation Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement, or TPP, is now largely out of the Obama administration’s hands, Froman indicated he would continue to make the case that the deal is good for America.

“We are obviously at a point in time where this is a legislative process to get TPP through and it’s really up to the congressional leadership to determine if, when and how it’s going to move forward,” he said. “It’s a political decision for them to make.”

“Our argument is that inaction poses serious costs,” he added, citing a recent study suggesting failure would cost the US economy around $94 billion in the first year alone.

Trade deals such as TPP and the 1993 North American Free Trade Agreement featured heavily in the US election campaign and many see Trump’s victory as a repudiation of ever-deeper commercial ties.

Neither Trump nor his Democratic rival Hillary Clinton supported TPP during the campaign.

Free-trade supporters say the deals were made a scapegoat for the social and economic disruptions caused by automation and other far more potent trends.

“Globalisation is a factor in our life, it’s not going away,” Froman said.

Some are still holding out a flicker of hope that pragmatism will trump the mogul’s tough anti-trade rhetoric when he gets to the Oval Office.

Allies of the president-elect, including some in Congress and Vice President-elect Mike Pence, have voiced support for the deal.

Some envisage the reopening of negotiations that would allow Trump to play dealmaker and claim to improve the pact.

Leaders of TPP countries were scheduled to meet in Lima, Peru on Saturday on the margins of an Asia-Pacific summit.

Published in The Express Tribune, November 20th, 2016.

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