by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
The TPP is mainly an agreement among rich nations — the United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Brunei, Singapore, Malaysia, Chile, etc. — along with Vietnam and Peru, both of which are looking to continue bettering their economic positions through trade. Free (or more nearly free) trade may or may not help GM sell a few more Buicks in Asia, but the case for liberalization goes far beyond the interests of trade-oriented American firms and price-conscious American consumers: From national security to humanitarian concerns, the United States has good reasons to be invested in the advancement of the TPP countries. And given that the United States has a high-wage, capital-intensive economy that exports mainly high-end goods, our own economic advancement is contingent upon the ability of U.S. firms to connect with high-income buyers in markets around the world. Poor people do not buy a great deal of what Americans make. …
… Rhetoric from the age of “Yellow Peril” panic was, at its root, not radically different from what one hears from Democrats today: The problem with Asians, this school of thought goes, is that there’s just so damned many of them, and they’re so poor and accustomed to low standards of living that no white man could be expected to compete. The belief that American workers are being undercut by poor Asians lives on even as the supply of desperately poor Asians runs low — Singapore, one of the TPP countries, has a per-capita GDP that is 50 percent larger than our own. But the scheming Oriental looms large in the xenophobic imagination, and so we have Senator Stabenow et al. preparing to derail an important trade pact over the specter of Chinese currency manipulation — which is to say, a non-issue relating to a non-signatory.