The Trans-Pacific Partnership, or TPP, is a trade agreement that is currently up for ratification. The countries that are part of this agreement include Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, the United States and Vietnam. This deal would greatly lower tariffs and other barriers to trade between these countries. While the creators of the deal say it would benefit trade between all the member countries, it is greatly opposed in the United States.
At this point in the election, neither Hillary Clinton nor Donald Trump support the TPP and Bernie Sanders, and many of his followers were extremely opposed to it during the Democratic Primary. Hillary Clinton originally supported the deal, but when it was clear how extremely unpopular it was, the candidate took an opposition opinion. However, while there are some negatives to the TPP and free trade in general, this agreement would overall be to the benefit to the United States and should be implemented.
The benefits of more open trade between nations is quite clear. It allows for goods to be sold cheaper in the United States since many goods can be produced for less in other countries than in the United States. Lower prices mean that a person’s wages are worth more even if they have not increased. Reduced barriers to trade also opens more markets to U.S. businesses, so companies will be taking in more revenue. Increased revenue will eventually lead to increased wages for workers of companies that trade internationally, which will help to grow the economy.
Consider NAFTA, the North Atlantic Free Trade Agreement, between the United States, Canada and Mexico. It is not the “single worst trade deal ever approved in this country” as Donald Trump argues, but actually gave rise to a small growth in GDP (gross domestic product). It also led to wage increases for service jobs since the U.S. has a surplus when it comes to trading services.
While more open trade provides many economic benefits, many people oppose it because it takes jobs out of the country. This is, unfortunately, true. Many businesses would prefer to move manufacturing to other countries that would allow them to produce goods at a lower price than they could in the United States. The people who lose their jobs are typically workers with low skills and are among the lowest paid in the country. Some of these workers would be able to find jobs in exporting companies, but some workers would still be left out. While this is terrible for those people, this trend is occurring with or without free trade. Manufacturing is becoming increasingly automated, and as robotics and artificial intelligence continues to improve these jobs are going to be disappearing over time anyway.
The U.S. economy has largely shifted to being service-oriented, so it can be difficult for these displaced workers to find jobs. But the reaction to this should not be to oppose free trade and other causes that lead to the loss of jobs because it is a suffering that can only be prolonged. As long as it is beneficial for businesses to use new technology or move overseas, they will continue to do so eventually, as barriers to trade put challenges in their path.
Instead of using time, money and energy to oppose deals like the TPP, efforts should be made to help bring unskilled laborers into the new economy, funding educational programs and other locally-oriented programs to help workers adjust. Many jobs can and should be created by giving government-based opportunities for rebuilding our collapsing infrastructure.
When discussing trade deals like the TPP, it is also important to consider the benefits it provides to the poorer members of the agreement. Trade has typically been the way poor countries gain more wealth. Citizens in the countries manufacturing jobs move to will now have access to more jobs that pay better (though less than what an American worker would be paid). This helps to improve life for many people around the world, and this benefit is worth consideration. Americans lose some of the lowest paying jobs in our country and other countries gain new jobs that increase wages. The trick, again, is helping U.S. workers find new jobs in a different type of economy.
The United States economy has also changed because globalization is an important aspect of its reality. Cutting off trade with other nations would not benefit the United States—it would likely harm it.
Historian Kiran Patel found that the United States entered a nationalistic phase in 1929 in which it increased barriers to trade immediately following the stock market crash that would eventually lead to the Great Depression. Patel believes that by cutting off the rest of the world, the situation was only exacerbated.
Even at that point, global trade was a necessity for the economy, and its importance has only grown as time has passed. To attempt to isolate the country now would likely cause an economic catastrophe for the United States and potentially the world.
Environmental protection must always be considered when forming trade deals. It is easy to see how countries could move factory locations under a trade agreement to an area with looser restrictions for environmental protection. However, the TPP includes extensive rules for defending the environment by opposing overfishing, defending natural environments, ending wildlife trafficking and protecting endangered species. While some environmental protection groups oppose the TPP, many others are in favor of it.
Environmental protection is becoming an increasingly important part of trade deals; it featured as a prominent issue in CETA (Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement), a trade agreement between the EU and Canada. As the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnerships (TTIP) between the United States and the EU is being negotiated, it is extremely likely that the U.S. will have to improve its environmental protection standards for the deal to ever go through. The EU views the United States the way the United States sees members of the TPP agreement; in both cases, standards would have to be increased for a deal to happen. In this way, trade agreements could improve the global environment and U.S. environmental protection laws.
The TPP and other trade deals can also function as tools to control or counteract the power of other countries. TPP is lacking on a significant member from Pacific Rim countries: China. In fact, the TPP agreement is designed as a control on Chinese power within that region to the benefit of the U.S. and other member countries. TPP would serve as a form of soft power, a way to assist our allies against growing Chinese power with increased U.S. involvement and without starting any wars or other conflicts.
If TPP were to not pass, our allies in the Pacific would question American reliability. This trade deal was started and has been led by the United States and would be very little policy change for the country.
However, the other members agreed to massive reforms to meet American standards. If the U.S. were to then abandon the deal, in a time when disputes in the South China Sea are increasing and North Korea is becoming increasingly provocative, our allies would doubt if these are matters of importance for the U.S. The TPP promotes the security interests of our country in this region.
The TPP should be approved by the United States. It would be to the overall benefit of the country in the long term and provides for new opportunities in the economy. It is considered by many to be one of President Obama’s signature accomplishments. However, no trade deal is perfect. None will revolutionize the economy or destroy it. Most trade agreements will likely follow the path of NAFTA and be of a small overall benefit to the country and to the benefit of our trading partners.