World Not Waiting for America: Pacific Nations Continue Trade Deal

Asian and Latin American nations keep the Trans Pacific Partnership alive.

Prime Ministers Shinzō Abe of Japan and Justin Trudeau of Canada speak in Washington DC, March 31, 2016
Prime Ministers Shinzō Abe of Japan and Justin Trudeau of Canada speak in Washington DC, March 31, 2016 (Flickr/Justin Trudeau)

In another sign that the world isn’t waiting for the United States, eleven countries in Asia and Latin America have announced their intention to keep the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) alive.

One of Donald Trump’s first acts as president was to withdraw from the trade pact.

Japan and Mexico stepped into America’s place to salvage it.

Both have also intensified their trade negotiations with the EU, which itself is rushing to defend globalization from a suddenly protectionist America.

Missed opportunity

Withdrawing from what would have been the largest trade deal in history — TPP nations account for 40 percent of global economic output — not only robs American companies and American consumers of commercial opportunities (read Afshin Molavi’s in The Atlantic for more); it undermines the country’s strategic “pivot” to Asia, something I argued here in January:

By drawing in almost all the countries around the Pacific Ocean except China, the hope was that the partnership would force the world’s second largest economy to abide by its liberal trade rules.

Now China has an opportunity to promote its own trade regime.

Bloomberg Businessweek reports that Beijing is creating a parallel economic order to the West’s. Absent American leadership in Asia, this could easily morph into an alternative political order with the support of likeminded authoritarian states, such as Iran and Russia.