Last week congressional Democrats and some misguided Republicans, erupted in a protectionist paroxysm and failed to approve giving the U.S. authority to negotiate the Trans-Pacific Partnership with most nations in the Asia-Pacific region except China. Protectionism has a sad history and seductive tradition in U.S. political and economic history. During the War of 1812, we cut off trade with Europe which had ruinous economic impact in the U.S. At the onset of the Great Depression, Congress foolishly enacted the Smoot-Hawley tariff which exacerbated this economic calamity in the U.S. and other areas of the world.
The fact of the matter is that the global center of economic prosperity has tilted to the Asia-Pacific region in recent decades and this is likely to accelerate. Besides China, numerous significant global economies benefit from their geographic proximity to this region including the U.S., Canada, Mexico, Australia, Indonesia, South Korea, Japan, and Russia. It is imperative that the U.S. approve the Trans-Pacific partnership to keep China from gaining an economic and political stranglehold over this region. It is also imperative that the U.S. approve the partnership to ensure U.S. agricultural products, industries, and goods and services have as free access as possible to Asia’s rapidly growing economic markets. In the economy of 2015, you export or die.
It’s not surprising to see Hillary Clinton and other leftist Democratic yahoos denounce free trade at the behest of their protectionist union bankrollers. I witnessed an example of this folly recently when I was driving through Chapel Hill, NC and saw some union activists urge their local Democratic congressman David Price to oppose Trade Promotion Authority. I guess they don’t want the opportunity to expand the Tar Heel state’s export reach to East Asia. Sadly, even some Republicans like the normally admirable and sensible Phyllis Schafly seem to have been seduced by the protectionist siren song.
I despise Obama as much as any conservative, but we have to view international trade as an issue beyond partisan bickering and think about as a means of enhancing U.S. economic growth and job security and of promoting American interests and values in this enormous region. China is on the march and would like nothing better than to keep the Western Pacific as a Chinese fortress where the U.S. and other western political, economic, and social values are not allowed to enter.
This is an excellent opportunity for the growing field of Republican presidential candidates to explicitly demonstrate their commitment to promoting U.S. economic growth and geopolitical interests by supporting the Trans-Pacific Partnership. The days when the U.S. could economically insulate itself from global trends and developments have been in the rear view mirror for several decades. We must remain competitive in education and our manufacturing sector needs to accommodate itself to the unshakeable global reality of international competitiveness and quit thinking it can insulate itself in a protectionist cocoon and immunize itself from global economic trends.