Monday, February 24, 2014

Trans-Pacific Partnership creating strange bedfellows

Nowhere is the national political divide more evident than on Capitol Hill. One topic, however, has had fairly consistent bipartisan support: free trade agreements. Since President Barack Obama took office, a few FTAs have been signed with approval by the Senate. That has been essentially true since the 1990s, when Bill Clinton and the New Democrats abandoned the traditional organized labor stance against free trade and signed the North American Free Trade Agreement, commonly known as NAFTA, with Canada and Mexico.

The current talk revolves around a proposed pact that has created some surprising partnerships. More about that in a minute. First, some background.

The Trans-Pacific Partnership, or TPP, the latest deal under discussion, is a free trade agreement between 12 countries: Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, United States and Vietnam. These countries, for the most part, already have low tariffs and trade agreements among themselves. In fact, the U.S. already has trade agreements in place with six of the 11 nations included in the TPP.

More importantly, the TPP also excludes China, one the most important trade partners to the 12 possible partners. That's why the agreement should be seen more as part of the U.S. economic diplomacy rather than a traditional trade agreement. The U.S. is trying to increase the influence of U.S. corporations in the region at the expense of Chinese economic interests.

Read the rest here. Originally published in the Reading Eagle (you need to register for free to read the whole piece).

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