Trump Says He’ll Abandon Trade. What Happens Next?

JM Ashby
Written by JM Ashby

Despot-elect Donald Trump says he will withdraw from trade negotiations after taking office and abandon the Trans-Pacific Partnership which is supported by President Obama and Speaker of the House Paul Ryan.

If he does that, what happens next?

The Wall Street Journal reports that a group of nations that would have signed the U.S.-backed partnership will probably sign China's trade pact instead, which excludes the U.S., and China's trade agreement will not benefit labor or consumers in America or the countries that would have signed TPP.

[Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership] members will trade more with China, squeezing their economic and strategic ties to the U.S. The White House Council of Economic Advisers this month assessed that if RCEP passes in place of TPP at least 35 U.S. industries that annually export $5.3 billion in goods to Japan “would see an erosion of their market access to Japan relative to Chinese firms.” This would affect 162,000 U.S. businesses that employ five million U.S. workers—and that’s only counting exports to Japan, one of seven TPP countries also involved in RCEP.

In a further self-inflicted wound, the death of TPP and the rise of RCEP would also give U.S. firms greater incentive to outsource production to RCEP countries where, unlike in the U.S., they could get preferential access to Asia’s booming markets. Such are the unintended consequences of America’s rising protectionism.

Unfortunately, our despot-elect is not alone in whipping up a misguided furor over a trade agreement that almost no critic can substantively oppose. Most of the general public who oppose it probably have no idea what "TPP" even stands for.

Labor unions, Bernie Sanders, and even Hillary Clinton also opposed the trade agreement. I suspect the latter did so for mostly short-term political reasons, but I can't say as much for the former. Bernie Sanders also opposes the Export-Import Bank which finances American-made exports. Senator Elizabeth Warren also criticized the partnership for being "secret" even though, as a member of Congress, she has full access to the current text of the agreement.

What all of the agreement's critics have in common is that they cannot specifically say how it will hurt Americans, only that it needs to be "better." Neither I or anyone in the general public has read the full agreement (because it isn't finished and hasn't been published) so obviously I can't say it's flawless, but there's one thing I can say that critics evidently cannot. I trust that President Obama would not sell out American workers. He never has before and there's no reason to believe he would now.

My understanding and sympathy for the political opposition to the trade agreement only extends so far before I'm forced to call it what it is. It's stupid and cynical. At least some critics know better, but it's not advantageous for them to say so right now.

The lives and livelihoods of workers will not improve after the Trans-Pacific Partnership is dead. They may actually suffer.

President Obama has repeatedly reminded us that China will set the rules if we don't. If you can't see how ironic and stupid it is that we've elected an anti-China critic who is promising to give China a competitive advantage immediately after he takes office by withdrawing from a trade agreement that doesn't even include China, it's possible no amount of explaining or evidence to the contrary will persuade you.

  • Once things start going to shit, I expect a barrage of disinformation for years on how Obummer screwed up everything and it was all crashing down when he left office and it’s all his fault. And Trump’s gullible supporters will believe it because black guy.

  • fry1laurie

    If the Drumpf WHITE(s only) House gets to gut trade agreements, I wonder how the Teamsters who supported him will feel. After all, no trade, no goods, nothing for truckers to deliver.

  • muselet

    If you elect an ignoramus, you can expect stupid decisions on crucial issues.

    If only the negative consequences of those stupid decisions would befall only the people who voted for the ignoramus …


  • Aynwrong

    I’ve been cynical and untrusting towards TPP as well. But it was never because I thought Obama was trying to “sell us out!” Now all our trade agreements and our most important connections to the world’s economy are in the hands of an amateur hour ignoramus and I have to admit I’m deeply troubled by the fact this seems to have been, if unwittingly abetted by people who otherwise respect (Warren, Sanders, Sharrod Brown, etc, etc…). I’ve always been put off by the idea that the status quo should be upended strictly for it’s own sake. And that’s exactly what was just voted in to the White House, isn’t it? Though we’ll see which parts of the status quo Trump has any interest actually upending.

    No matter what happens, all the God damned trolls for whom Obama didn’t do enough for and for whom Hillary wasn’t pure enough are going to end up deeply missing the former and regretting the loss of the latter. Though I doubt they’ll ever have the integrity to admit it.

  • Badgerite

    Yeah. That is pretty much it. It is already starting. The Amazing Shrinking United States.
    I wonder how long it will take for the US to become the Trump Monster’s 7th bankruptcy.

    • MJ

      Boy…is Aravosis losing it now. Trying to bring up silly Nazis when Trump has Jews in his family? (Notice how fat Aravosis is getting too? Like Roseanne said once to her fat husband, “You don’t have the body of a Greek god anymore. Now you just look like some Greek….. guy”).

      • WTF are you babbling about?

      • Badgerite

        Thee has been a sharp rise in threatening messages and attacks on Jewish people on line and if you doubt that you can consult Josh Marshall at Talking Points Memo who has had several posts on this issue and has himself received some such threats. The Trump Monster campaign has encouraged this. These people feel they can freely spew their hate out now to a receptive audience. I think they are sorely mistaken.