The demise of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) is being called a foreign policy disaster by its backers in the United States and abroad, which is notable because for years the agreement was sold as an economic panacea.
But by the summer of 2016, it became increasingly apparent that the economic case for the final TPP deal signed in February had proved unconvincing. Months of intensive White House and corporate lobbying had failed to build majority support in Congress. So, the TPP’s proponents shifted to foreign policy arguments to try to scare up the votes, a tactic that has been systematically employed in past contentious trade fights. They argued that failure to implement the TPP would hurt U.S. national security, allow China to write the rules for commerce in Asia instead of spreading U.S. values across the Pacific, undermine U.S. global leadership, and strengthen China.
Donald Trump’s declaration that he would withdraw the U.S. signature from the TPP, formally burying the moldering deal, unleashed another wave of the same fraught foreign policy claims.