U.S. President Donald J. Trump made waves in the international trade community Monday when he announced the United States would withdraw from the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), a trade agreement between the U.S., Canada, Australia, Japan, and eight other Pacific Rim nations.

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Eastside leaders, like Ben Zhang, president & CEO of Greater China Industries Inc., share their responses to President Donald J. Trump’s decision to withdraw the U.S. from the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal.

The agreement,  made public in late 2015, was the signature trade deal of the administration of former President Barack Obama, and was awaiting Congressional approval. Proponents argued the TPP aimed to reduce international trade barriers while implementing modern labor, environmental, and commerce guidelines. Opponents argued the plan would allow corporations to ship middle-income jobs overseas.

In light of the news, 425 Business magazine checked in with local business and trade organizations to gather their responses to this news and ask how this move might impact our area.

Lori Otto Punke, president, Washington Council on International Trade

Washington Council on International Trade (WCIT) has been a strong and consistent supporter of the TPP because it promised far-reaching benefits to trade-dependent Washington state, where 40 percent of our jobs are tied to trade. The TPP moved us forward in so many positive ways, and it is a shame to let go of all those benefits. It would have ensured U.S. exporters could sell their goods and services in TPP countries on a level playing field with foreign competitors, something they now cannot do. It would have streamlined complex rules and regulations that make doing business abroad difficult, protected a free and open internet, enabled cross-border data flows, and raised standards on labor and the environment. The TPP would have also enabled the U.S. to take on a leadership role in the fast-growing Asia-Pacific region. Though we are disappointed about the withdrawal from the TPP, WCIT looks forward to finding ways to work with the administration on new opportunities to expand and improve our trade relationships, drive job creation and economic growth, and increase Washington state’s international competitiveness.

Richard Trumka, president, AFL-CIO

Last year, a powerful coalition of labor, environmental, consumer, public health and allied groups came together to stop the TPP. Today’s announcement that the U.S. is withdrawing from TPP and seeking a reopening of NAFTA is an important first step toward a trade policy that works for working people. While these are necessary actions, they aren’t enough. They are just the first in a series of necessary policy changes required to build a fair and just global economy. We will continue our relentless campaign to create new trade and economic rules that end special privileges for foreign investors and Big Pharma, protect our planet’s precious natural resources and ensure fair pay, safe conditions and a voice in the workplace for all workers.

Ben Zhang, president & CEO, Greater China Industries Inc.

First, President Trump is trying to deliver on his promise to American voters who supported him during the election.”Made in America” is the theme he used to win the election among most of the midwestern, rust-belt states. However, once he attempts to execute his promise/plan he will realize that it is not beneficial to most Americans.  Americans spend billions every day at Target, Walmart, Costco, and other low-cost retailers where the majority of the goods are made outside of the U.S. Most Americans want low-cost, high-value merchandise. For Trump to think that America is suddenly going to produce all this domestically and competitively is a farce.

Second, America, as the largest world economy, is more competitive in technology, finance, pharmaceutical, service sector, etc. … innovation and creativity make the U.S. economy strong. We Americans want highly paid and highly skilled jobs, not the “low-level” labor intensive jobs generated by the TPP economies. Additionally, Americans won’t tolerate the social, economic and pollution to our environment issues that manufacturing-based countries endure. The 21st century should be about globalization and collaboration with neighbor countries to improve overall living standards and quality of life for all. Historically, trade-related protectionism has never been a successful American policy … it will isolate America from global competition, just like putting us all in a “dark room” with no sun. Competition makes the American economy grow and strong; we should be confident to compete on our strengths.

Third, the original purpose of the TPP agreement as designed by the Obama administration was to penalize China by promoting other Pacific Rim nations including Canada, Mexico, Japan, Vietnam, Malaysia, and Australia. China, the world’s 2nd largest economy, was specifically not included among the TPP member nations. However, the Chinese government strategically moved very rapidly (ahead of the Obama administration) to sign multiple bilateral trade agreements with most of the TPP nations.  Much of this done even before the Obama administration announced the TPP initiatives to the world. By abandoning TPP, President Trump is countering China’s swift actions as a build-up to his protectionist policies. A clear irony is that while China is working to build super-highways and under-ocean tunnels (China Silk Road Economic Initiative) to connect Europe, Africa, Russia, Southeast Asia, and potentially Australia and South America to promote global trade,  President Trump is working to close borders and free trade with Mexico and other counties. Today he is abandoning TPP, tomorrow it will be “renegotiating” NAFTA. I honestly don’t feel these types of strategies will benefit future generations or truly make America great again.

In my opinion, the impact of “anti-trade” policies will hurt our nation/region’s economy, especially trade between Washington state and China. We know that out of 50 states, Washington state engages in the most trade with China and has enjoyed a trade surplus with China over the last decade. That means China has imported more American-made products than what China sold to Washington state. President Trump mentioned he might impose a 45 percent tariff on Chinese-made goods through executive order. He does not need the U.S. Congress’ vote to execute this plan if he really chooses to act on it. But, the Chinese government will likely respond with similar duty rates or even higher on American-made products in response. If this happens, it hurts consumers from both nations because these added duties are eventually paid by consumers from both countries, not manufacturers.

In Trump’s inauguration speech, he said he will work for the American people. If he truly means that, he should reconsider some of his trade policies. A 45 percent duty on all Chinese made products only hurts consumers. This simply does not make good business or trade sense!

Stan Sorscher, president, Washington Fair Trade Coalition

Withdrawal from the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) marks two important accomplishments. We stop digging ourselves into a deeper hole on trade policy, and we begin to rethink our approach to globalization. For decades, we have mismanaged globalization, amplifying the wealth and influence of the 1 percent across the globe, while leaving workers, communities and the planet behind. TPP’s fatal flaw was its closed process dominated by corporate advisors. The interests of civil society were never taken seriously in the TPP negotiations process, nor in other negotiations over the last 20 years of free-trade deals. The 75 member organizations of the Washington Fair Trade Coalition insist on a new approach to globalization through open political engagement where we balance legitimate public interests with investor interests. We call for a new approach to globalization:

  • The goal of trade is to improve living standards everywhere – not maximum possible trade; not lower prices.
  • All stakeholders must be involved in any new negotiations process, and public interest must be taken seriously.
  • Policies must prioritize labor rights, human rights, public health, food security, and the environment – directly addressing the two defining problems of our time: climate change and inequality
  • National and local strategies are legitimate and necessary. Trade policy should encourage local innovation and decision-making.

This moment is an historic opportunity to rewrite the global rule book, ensuring that trade policy works for all of us.

We differ from President Trump’s framing this as America against the world. We are OK with globalization, properly managed. The issue is balancing interests of civil society in each country with global corporations in each country. Trade deals set the rules for globalization. We want rules to give everyone their share of the gains from globalization.