Alvaro Vargas Llosa
We’ve heard repeated attacks during the presidential campaign against the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), the commercial treaty signed by the United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Japan and seven additional countries from Asia and Latin America. Much of the opposition—and even the occasional support—has focused on China.
Supporters of the proposed treaty see it less as an economic accord and more as a strategic accord, necessary to contain China. Opponents see it as a threat, another bad trade deal which, after ratification by the U.S. Senate, might embolden signatories to let China in through “the back door,” resulting in new calamities for American workers.
The truth is: Both views are wrong—and for the same reason. TPP will do little, if anything, to slow the growth of China’s economic and political power. And it will have little effect on American workers. The reason: because TPP is irrelevant to China. They don’t need to be involved.
As Kim Iskyan, founder of Singapore’s Truewealth Publishing pointed out in a revealing analysis, China wasn’t sitting on its hands during the eight-year period in which TPP was being negotiated (2006-2014.) It was enhancing its economic ties to the Asia-Pacific region and building a strong trading network of its own.
Today, while U.S. politicians are busy running from and against the Trans-Pacific Partnership, China already has free-trade agreements (FTAs) with nine of the twelve TPP signatories. While the United States was talking, China was acting, completing agreements with Australia and Chile in 2006, New Zealand and Singapore in 2008, Peru in 2009, and the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN)—which includes TPP members Brunei, Malaysia and Vietnam—in 2010.
Chinese investment in the region also has skyrocketed, Iskyan notes, increasing more than 350 percent among the ASEAN nations alone from 2006 to 2014.
While U.S. politicians are debating whether TPP is the best way to contain Beijing or a Trojan horse of Chinese economic imperialism (even though China isn’t even part of the treaty), the Chinese have created their own TPP and they’re busy expanding it.
The ties go well beyond trade and investment.