We cannot help but be disappointed by the seemingly inflexible stance of the Trump administration, which fails to understand the significance of free trade and which insists on viewing trading partners as enemies. President Trump’s view that the United States has been sacrificing American industry and enriching the industries of other countries for decades is entirely too one-sided.
Globalism was launched in earnest under U.S. leadership following the end of the Cold War when many U.S. firms moved their production bases overseas. It is beyond dispute that this contributed to the growth of newly developing countries, not least among them the People’s Republic of China.
At the same time, we must not lose sight of the growth that this brought to the U.S. economy as well. Affordable, high-quality goods flowed into the United States, enabling Americans to lead richer lives. Ignoring links with the economies of other nations and calling only for the purchasing of American products and the employment of American workers is populism taken to its furthest degree.
If American withdrawal ends up preventing the implementation of the TPP, then Japan’s growth strategy will be ruined root and branch. Japan must work to strengthen ties with other signatory countries while also urging the United States to change its position, even if this will take some time to achieve.
In order to persuade the United States to remain committed to the multilateral trading system, it will be necessary to convince the United States that leaving the partnership will not improve its economic position – in fact, it would have the opposite result. For example, a TPP stalemate would be a detriment to American farmers hoping to expand their exports to Japan. Under Trump’s administration, this opportunity is already gone.
If business opportunities in Asia for American firms evaporate, then China and its 1.38 billion consumers in the region will loom even larger as they fill the gap. Isn’t this precisely what Trump would most like to avoid?