COMMENTARY: TPP will benefit American workers and companies

On the same day, Sunday, July 31, both the Delaware State News and The News Journal ran opinion columns from writers bashing the pending Trans-Pacific Partnership, the trade agreement between North American and Asian-Pacific nations. This article presents a balanced overview of this important proposal, which is awaiting approval by Congress.

On a broad level — despite the rhetoric we have been hearing in the 2016 presidential campaign — almost three-fifths of Americans favor trade, according to a February 2016 Gallup poll. Conversely, fewer than one-fifth of Americans believe that dropping trade pacts like the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) will be of benefit. Overall, Americans are sophisticated enough to recognize that trade is not a zero-sum game, but a two-way street.

Dr. Samuel B. Hoff

Dr. Samuel B. Hoff

TPP has been in the pipeline for some time. After it was proposed in 2008, it was negotiated by the 12 signers over the next seven years across 42 meetings, of which several took place in Washington, D.C., and one each in Maryland and Virginia. The agreement deals with many of the issues cited by critics, including provisions for settling disputes, protecting intellectual property, and standardizing processes among member countries.

Though the advantages for TPP member nations may be uneven, the positives associated with U.S. membership are obvious: various economists and think-tanks estimate that TPP will increase U.S. exports by 9 percent by 2030, while growing the U.S. economy by 0.6 percent. The TPP, whose member nations account for 40 percent of the global economy, is projected to augment the world economy by $3 trillion.

Clearly, the TPP will not only improve elements of NAFTA between the U.S., Canada, and Mexico, but will solidify an alliance of nations as a counter to China’s influence in the Asia-Pacific region. On the heels of the latest failure to update the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade, many nations are going on their own to form agreements.

For instance, 10 Southeast Asian nations are bidding for form a bloc. China has proposed a 16-nation Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership, which if passed would encompass 3.4 billion people and comprise the world’s largest trade. Finally, European Union members are negotiating the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership.

Though the U.S. has had success with bilateral agreements, bloc agreements like TPP present more opportunities for diversifying markets for American goods.

Among the most consistent of criticisms against TPP is that it will hurt U.S. workers, particularly in the manufacturing field. While it is true that jobs in the latter sector continue to disappear, it is myopic and mistaken to blame trade agreements for that long-term economic pattern. Rather, worker training and education are needed to confront weaknesses in the personnel area, while infrastructure projects will facilitate manufacturing jobs.

TPP is projected to grow wages of both skilled and unskilled workers, just as domestic policies like increasing earned-income tax credits for unskilled workers will further bolster part of the American economy.

The pending TPP agreement has also been opposed for environmental reasons. However, there is no credible evidence that TPP will either increase fracking in America or contribute negatively to climate change, as alleged.

On the contrary, TPP is still subject to national and international regulations. It should be noted that several of the TPP nations — including Vietnam and Thailand — have strengthened conservation measures, while TPP signers Australia and New Zealand have among the world’s most stringent ecological statutes.

Within the state, the TPP has been supported by both of Delaware’s U.S. senators, who wisely understand that it will increase the state’s poultry exports. Indeed, 123,000 Delaware jobs can be directly traced to trade, which is double the national percentage of jobs traced to trade. More than most, Delaware stands to gain significantly from simultaneous reduction in tariffs for imports and exports among TPP member nations.

Though TPP passage by Congress by the end of the year looks remote, as both major party candidates for president oppose the agreement, it still has bipartisan backing and the support of the Barack Obama administration.

Sooner than later, the current isolationist fervor will subside in favor of reason and logic. When it does, the benefits of TPP will be apparent for all to see and experience.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Dr. Samuel B. Hoff is George Washington Distinguished Professor of History and Political Science and Law Studies director at Delaware State University. He was a member of the board of directors for the United Nations Association of the United States of America — Delaware Division (UNA-USA-DE). Dr. Hoff has taught and published extensively on foreign, national security, and military affairs issues.

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