We were cheered by President Obama’s commitment, at this week’s Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum, to the completion of the nine-nation Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) free-trade agreement — even if the geologic speed with which the president moved on Bush-era free-trade accords with Colombia, Panama, and South Korea gives us one reason to doubt that the goal of signing TPP next year will be met.
There are other reasons to doubt as well. An integrated Asian market has been a top desire of the U.S. trade community since the end of the Cold War, with only the small matter of China and Japan — the region’s two largest, and most intransigent, economies — standing in the way. Beijing has been cool at best and downright hostile at worst toward TPP — a reaction evinced by its pursuit of a competing agreement (within its ASEAN +3 bloc) that would do little to liberalize trade and, crucially, would exclude the United States — and our aversion to raising Chinese ire has kept us from bringing the ready and willing Taiwan into the fold.
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