The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) is a proposed free trade agreement between twelve Pacific Rim nations concerning various issues of economic policy. The TPP aims at enhancing trade and investment among its partners by eliminating tariffs and other barriers to goods and services with a view to generating jobs and promoting innovation, economic growth and development. The TPP countries represent 40% of world GDP and one-third of total world trade. Considering the importance of this accord, the Obama administration termed the TPP as 'fast track agreement' or '21st century trade agreement.'
The TPP is historically the extension of the Trans-Pacific Strategic Economic Partnership Agreement signed by Brunei, Chile, Singapore, and New Zealand in 2006. Additional countries joined for a broader agreement reaching the member countries a dozen in 2008. Contributing nations set the goal of bringing a conclusion of negotiations in 2012, but controversial issues such as intellectual property, agriculture, services and investments have caused negotiations to prolong into the present. Recent negotiations have been ended in the United States without resolving contentious issues.
Bringing the TPP into light is a first priority of the US Government's trade agenda. The agenda of the pact has been negotiated largely in secret by representatives from major multinational corporations without releasing any draft. However, US business intellectuals argue that against this backdrop, the bill of TPP in the Congress will face bar in passing. Basically, this pact is facing two kinds of criticism in the participating countries by the citizens respectively. The Atlantic, a US based magazine, reports that the US citizens argue that the TPP will increase more unemployment and hinder local small and medium entrepreneurship and other business interests. The sort of criticism differs each from other in the remaining countries, but critiques have agreed in increasing the role of the US in domestic affairs and curtailing local business interests.
The US government is trying to persuade the participating nations to be engaged in the agreement in broader scale swallowing the business interests of the nations and benefits of the agreement frequently. If we critically evaluate the agreement, it is clear that all the participating nations are traditionally US' allies with whom the US has been maintaining a warm relation for years. Therefore, the rise of China is not seen in a good eye in this region by the member nations of the TPP. The Guardian, a British newspaper, rightly evaluates the geopolitical and geoeconomic rise of China and the making or unmaking of the TPP agreement as 'failure to reach a free trade agreement with Asian economies would allow the People's Republic of China (PRC) to set the global norms'. Here it can be stated that the more China will rise, the more the US's role will minimise in the region. Asian intellectuals have concluded the TPP as a marshal plan of the US Government whose hidden schema is to contain China or to neutralise the role of PRC in the region as well as in the world. Geopolitical and geoeconomic reasons behind containing or neutralising China would be sketched broadly in the current analysis.
First, according to the IMF, Beijing's economy is the world's second largest economy by nominal GDP, and by purchasing power parity; it is the world's largest economy . It is the world's fastest-growing major economy, largest manufacturing economy and exporter of goods, fastest growing consumer market and second largest importer of goods. Therefore, the World Bank predicts that if growth moderates, China is likely to become a high-income economy and the world's largest economy before 2030. China has already hugely invested in Latin America, the Caribbean, Africa, and Central Asia. Trade between China and Africa increased to $200 billion in 2013 that is more than double of US-Africa trade levels. Therefore China controls 14% of the ASEAN external trade which is more than twofold of the US. Scrutinising China's economic development, the US takes the TPP as a great chance to batter Chinese economy.
Secondly, China's establishment of the AIIB and New Development Bank (NDB) is seemed as China's largest political and economic success. Beijing's AIIB is termed by the US intellectuals as a direct threat to the US-led traditional economic sources as the WB, IMF and ADB. Analysts argue that Beijing's rise has minimised the Obama administration's 'pivot to Asia or rebalancing policy' (remaining as a global player in the Asia-Pacific region through its economic, political and military presence) in Asia. Against this backdrop, the US along with its trusted allies intends to neutralise China's political and economic rise and rename the rebalancing policy's economic interests as the TPP.
Thirdly, China has intended to launch again its Silk Road by the name of the New Silk Road. The name of the Silk Road was given in 1877 by Ferdinand von Richthofen whose existence dates back to the second century BC. The former dealt with land only that was used lastly during 1939 to 1941 for military deliveries for the Second World War but the latter deals with both land and maritime. The US geopolitical experts argue that China's move towards the New Silk Road is a grand strategy to balance the US's TPP agreement.
Finally, China is one step forward to control the South China Sea bordering with the US's close friends as Brunei, Taiwan, Malaysia, the Philippines, and Vietnam allegedly violating the law of the Sea. China has almost completed building airstrips and drilling rig into waters in the Sea to base military assets and oversee the Malacca Strait, the busiest shipping route, which is used for 50% of global oil tanker shipments. Critically evaluating China's growing influence in international politics and economics, the US diplomats termed the TPP as a game-changer for the US in Asia and in the world.
To be or not to be, taking Beijing's gradual rise in consideration, it can be argued that the failure of the TPP is to welcome China's role in writing fundamental rules of the global economy in the coming decades that will hamper US's geopolitical and geoeconomic interests in Asia as well as in the world.
Amdadul Haque is a researcher of Bangladesh Centre for Political Studies (BCPS). Email: [email protected]