President Donald J. Trump ironically acted against his Republican allies and chose to support the majority of the Democrats by scrapping the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) Trade Deal, an accord that would have created a large free-trade zone in the Pacific Rim. The trade deal would have unified the United States and 11 other nations, such as Japan, Malaysia, and Australia, in an agreement that lowered tariffs while establishing regulations for “resolving trade disputes, setting patents, and protecting intellectual property.” Although many Republicans including Speaker Paul D. Ryan supported the trade deal and even worked with former President Obama to draft the legislation, President Trump asserts that it represented a “bad deal for American workers” and would hurt United States jobs through an increase in foreign competition. President Trump’s abandonment of the Trans-Pacific Partnership also represents a reversal of the decades-long norm for presidents from both parties to pass legislation that lowers trade barriers and increases economic ties globally.
What does this reversal in policy mean for the United States and its allies? In addition, what will the rejection of the TPP signify for the nations competing against China in Southeast Asia and Oceania? While I agree with Trump that the trade deal would have most likely hurt American workers and lowered their wages because foreign competitors could perform their same jobs for lower salaries, I also believe that the TPP would have checked the rising power of China. This introduces another worrisome question: will China now have the potential to crush its economic competition in Southeast Asia? American manufacturers and those who work in industrial occupations will no doubt rejoice at President Trump’s decision. But will the United States as a whole be better off without the benefits of lowered trade tariffs and intellectual property rights with its Pacific allies?
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