Asian Trade Deal Killed
To no one’s surprise, White House officials conceded Friday that the president’s hard-fought-for Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade deal would not pass Congress in light of the election of Donald Trump, who campaigned on anti-global trade policies.
Desmond O’Rourke, publisher of the World Apple Report, noted that several weeks ago Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell told reporters he would not allow debate on the TPP to be raised in the lame duck session. The White House announcement confirms that.
Even if Trump hadn’t been elected, his opponent, Hillary Clinton, argued against the TPP in its current form, although she supported it while secretary of state for the Obama administration. During the Democratic primary she was pushed by Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders to give up her support.
The TPP became a campaign symbol for lost manufacturing jobs, especially in the rust belt states. Trump argued it would send jobs from the U.S. to other countries and damage the American economy. He has made similar arguments about the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).
The TPP would have included the U.S. and 11 countries in Asia, South America, and the south Pacific, and was designed in large part to curb the growing economic influence of China. It originally enjoyed widespread bipartisan support, but that has withered during the presidential campaign.
O’Rourke, a contributor to American Fruit Grower® and Western Fruit Grower® magazines and a member of the magazines’ Editorial Advisory Board, says it is a loss for U.S. growers, as ratification of the TPP would have been helpful to U.S. fruit exporters in four main ways:
- “Many of our competitors have signed bilateral trade agreements with Asian partners that are lowering tariff barriers for them and giving them an advantage over U.S. suppliers. TPP would have reduced those disadvantages.
- “TPP aimed to help streamline trade protocols that would have made trade flows smoother and less costly.
- “Had TPP gone ahead with the existing partners, there would have been a strong incentive for other countries like India, Indonesia, and Thailand to seek membership, and thus add to the benefits for U.S. exporters.
- “(President) Obama, I believe correctly, saw the TPP as a way to give the U.S. leadership in developing the trade agenda for all of Asia. The alternative will be for China to set that agenda. China’s commitment to free and fair trade is very dubious.”
However, O’Rourke added: “One real possibility is that Trump will allow TPP to die but as he realizes the importance of trade – Econ 101 – he will renegotiate a similar deal with a new name and new safeguards for U.S. workers.”