Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is putting a lot of pressure on members of the Diet to ratify TPP, The Japan Times reports:
In what became the first parliamentary faceoff with the opposition after his sweeping victory in the Upper House election in July, Abe touted the TPP as “pivotal” to Japan’s economic growth.
“The global community is monitoring with high expectations how we will discuss the bill” to ratify the TPP, he said. “We must pass it during this Diet session.”
Abe’s comments were in response to questions by Yoshihiko Noda, the former prime minister who was recently tapped as secretary-general of the main opposition Democratic Party.
Noda said that with the U.S. Congress opposed to the current deal, there is “no reason for us to hasten its ratification.”
First, Vietnam stalled on ratification, and now Japan’s opposition is seizing on it for political gain. A primary stated reason in both cases? That the prospects for ratification in the U.S. are so uncertain. If the deal looks imperiled, many politicians will conclude it’s not worth expending the political capital on such a controversial issue. And make no mistake: leaders across Asia were carefully watching last night’s debates for hints and clues about which way America will go after November.
If Donald Trump becomes President, TTP is dead—certainly in its current form, and probably for the foreseeable future. Trump has promised to bring his bargaining skills to bear on the issue, but given nature of multilateral diplomacy (herding cats comes to mind), renegotiating the deal will take a long time. The current TPP framework was hashed out over President Obama’s two terms in office.
The question remains what Hillary Clinton will do if she wins. She is a committed internationalist and a principled defender of free trade, and though she genuflected to leftwing populists in pursuit of her party’s nomination, she has carved out plenty of wiggle room for herself on the issue. If certain vaguely specified “standards” of hers are met, she has indicated she will support the deal. It’s not clear, however, whether she will find enough support in Congress after the election, on either side of the aisle, to pass it.
Trade critics on the Left and on the Right may scoff “good riddance” at the prospect of TPP failing, but they may yet come to rue their glee. A rule- and trade-based global order, built painstakingly and piecemeal by the United States and its allies since the end of World War II, has not only been responsible for a remarkable period of economic prosperity and material progress; it has also helped usher in an era of relative peace in the world. The rationale for Obama’s “Pivot to Asia” was to solidify and extend this system to the Far East—and to convince China that its best path forward was to integrate itself into it rather than to try to fashion a coercive alternative with Beijing at its center. (Many forget that then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton invited China to join the fledgling trading bloc in 2012. Beijing demurred.)
The “pivot” is in trouble for a myriad of reasons, many of which we have been following closely here at TAI. The Obama Administration’s credibility abroad has been badly strained, due in part to sheer fecklessness and in part to a fervent belief among the Administration’s principals that the postwar global order was somehow natural and self-sustaining. It’s true that the global order will not crumble immediately if TPP does not come to pass, nor will our alliance structure in Asia collapse overnight. But TPP’s defeat will certainly be seen as a harbinger, by both allies and adversaries, of a new geopolitical reality emerging—a less stable, more fractured, and more dangerous, world being born.
The pain being felt by voters hit hard by America’s deindustrialization is very real, and either a President Clinton or a President Trump will in their own ways have to address their grievances. We just hope that both candidates don’t lose sight of the bigger strategic picture at the same time. The stakes are high.