“Why not China? Why not Korea? Why not Taiwan?”
These were the words of former United States Trade Representative Mickey Kantor on Tuesday at the US-Australia Bilateral Dialogues when asked if the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) was just a starting point for a broader agreement that would open trade to the entire Asia-Pacific region. While that may still be far off, there is a sense of urgency to get this agreement completed in 2014.
The TPP is a massive trade agreement between Australia, Brunei, Chile, Canada, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, the United States and Vietnam. Called a 21st century trade agreement, the TPP intends to move beyond policies of the traditional free trade agreements (tariff reductions, market access) and instead looks to harmonize digital property protections, promoting innovation, and environmental alignments among other regulations.
Kantor warned that the agreement, in its current state without China, was serving to alienate the country even further and would not advance an agenda of pushing China to enter into fair trade and transparent currency regulations.
Claude Barfield, a Resident Scholar at the American Enterprise Institute and former consultant to the US Trade Representative, opined that the agreement should be enacted with its current partners but should also be an ongoing and open agreement that allows further countries such as China, India, Indonesia to join down the road when they have demonstrated they meet the expectations of the pact. He also warned that missing the December 2013 completion deadline was a blow to the partnership and warned that President Obama must line up Democratic support now in order to get it across the finish line.
The two points that all panelists agreed on was that, first, completing the agreement this year is critical if it is to be completed at all. And second, that policymakers and the general public should look at this agreement not as a forthcoming hit to domestic industries but rather in the context of how it will make our economies more competitive, more innovative and revitalize the global economy.