Blind to benefits of free trade with Asia

Reuters

Barack Obama (R) speaks as Brunei's Sultan and Prime Minister Hassanal Bolkiah (L) listens during the Trans-Pacific Partnership Leaders meeting at the Hale Koa Hotel during the APEC Summit in Honolulu, Hawaii, November 12, 2011.

U.S. policymakers don't seem to grasp that free trade in Asia is moving ahead with or without American participation. Indeed, the Trans-Pacific Partnership itself was begun in 2005 by Brunei, Chile, New Zealand and Singapore. Not until 2008 did Washington express interest in joining. 

Yet American politicians, particularly from the Democratic Party, seem only to be increasing their resistance to greater U.S. free trade activity. Late last year, 151 Democrats from the House of Representatives sent President Barack Obama a letter stating their opposition to his proposed fast-track authority for promoting free trade. A senior Democrat, Rep. Rosa DeLauro of Connecticut, lauded Sen. Harry Reid's dismissal of fast-track legislation, arguing that more free trade deals will lead to a further loss of American jobs.

Indeed, in some ways, the domestic political fight over fast-track authority reflects a larger U.S. debate over what its global role should be. After over a decade of war in the Middle East and more than a half-decade of economic recession and stagnation, there is a growing isolationist sense in the country.

The fact that America's underemployment rate stands at 13% and the labor force participation rate has plunged to its lowest level in nearly 40 years has not changed the opinions of many American politicians who believe that opening up to free trade is dangerous. They refuse to recognize that the employment environment can be strengthened by creating more export opportunities. Such a development will also bring back into the workforce many Americans who have given up hope. In addition, greater trade opportunities will help encourage many American workers who lack the skills needed to compete in the global economy to get a better education to become more employable. That, in turn, will help U.S.-based companies become more competitive globally.

A final piece of the puzzle is that free trade should be a strong part of America's foreign policy, especially in Asia. Obama repeatedly talked about the TPP as one of the legs of the U.S. "pivot" toward Asia. He and others saw the TPP as a way to bring together free market economies and help move participating countries further along a democratic route. Yet Obama himself must be faulted for not working hard enough to convince his own party of the benefits of free trade.

It is time for the U.S. Congress to recognize that America cannot thrive if it is isolated economically in the world. Free trade, properly structured, promotes open economies and political systems and can help America recover from its continuing economic sluggishness.

 

Also Visit
AEIdeas Blog The American Magazine
About the Author

 

Michael
Auslin

What's new on AEI

Love people, not pleasure
image Oval Office lacks resolve on Ukraine
image Middle East Morass: A public opinion rundown of Iraq, Iran, and more
image Verizon's Inspire Her Mind ad and the facts they didn't tell you
AEI on Facebook
Events Calendar
  • 21
    MON
  • 22
    TUE
  • 23
    WED
  • 24
    THU
  • 25
    FRI
Monday, July 21, 2014 | 9:15 a.m. – 11:30 a.m.
Closing the gaps in health outcomes: Alternative paths forward

Please join us for a broader exploration of targeted interventions that provide real promise for reducing health disparities, limiting or delaying the onset of chronic health conditions, and improving the performance of the US health care system.

Monday, July 21, 2014 | 4:00 p.m. – 5:30 p.m.
Comprehending comprehensive universities

Join us for a panel discussion that seeks to comprehend the comprehensives and to determine the role these schools play in the nation’s college completion agenda.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014 | 8:50 a.m. – 12:00 p.m.
Who governs the Internet? A conversation on securing the multistakeholder process

Please join AEI’s Center for Internet, Communications, and Technology Policy for a conference to address key steps we can take, as members of the global community, to maintain a free Internet.

Event Registration is Closed
Thursday, July 24, 2014 | 9:00 a.m. – 10:00 a.m.
Expanding opportunity in America: A conversation with House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan

Please join us as House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI) unveils a new set of policy reforms aimed at reducing poverty and increasing upward mobility throughout America.

Thursday, July 24, 2014 | 6:00 p.m. – 7:15 p.m.
Is it time to end the Export-Import Bank?

We welcome you to join us at AEI as POLITICO’s Ben White moderates a lively debate between Tim Carney, one of the bank’s fiercest critics, and Tony Fratto, one of the agency’s staunchest defenders.

No events scheduled this day.
No events scheduled today.
No events scheduled this day.
No events scheduled this day.
No events scheduled this day.