As reported by the Wall Street Journal, the US' hopeful re-entry into the Trans-Pacific Partnership will carry a cost.
The president first mentioned the possibility of re-entering TPP at a January conference of business elites in Davos, Switzerland.
TPP was a 12-nation Pacific Rim trade pact, including Japan, Australia and Vietnam, meant to liberalize trade and counter Chinese influence. It would have cut tariffs, put restraints on state-owned enterprises and updated trade rules, among other things. As presidential candidates in 2016, both Mr. Trump and Democrat Hilary Clinton attacked TPP, which was viewed by critics as selling out workers because it made outsourcing jobs overseas easier.
The other 11 nations went ahead anyway and concluded what was called the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership, known as TPP-11. As soon as six of the TPP-11 ratify the deal—expected around the spring of 2019—it will go into effect. The pact’s trade officials have made clear they won’t delay ratification.
All 11 nations must agree to admit a new member, giving each of them a veto. That could make it hard for the U.S. to win the “substantially better” deal that Mr. Trump tweeted he required.
The other nations want U.S. participation. Countries like Malaysia, Vietnam and Japan joined TPP mainly to get better access to the U.S. market, and to show China they had alternatives. Some other TPP nations already had free-trade deals with the U.S.
But that would come at a price: The TPP-11 would likely seek concessions from the U.S. “It wouldn’t be automatic,” said Jeffrey Schott, a trade expert at the Peterson Institute for International Economics in Washington, D.C.
That would just get TPP back to square one—the deal that Mr. Trump killed and that likely would have had difficulty getting through Congress. Mr. Trump would need to rely on farm-state lawmakers, in particular, to push a new TPP because it would cut tariffs on U.S. agricultural products.
It isn’t clear that compromise would work. Such talks would be “extremely confrontational,” said Ms. Weisel. But that’s what is in the offing if the U.S. is serious about rejoining TPP.
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