In an op-ed published in the Wall Street Journal on April 12, 2013, David Dreier makes a case for engaging China in the Trans-Pacific Partnership: a new, affirmative, and inclusive multilateral trade agreement.
China Belongs in the Pacific Trade Talks
This is a hinge moment for the global economy. Don’t leave Beijing out.
The last quarter-century brought the fastest and most profound geopolitical change and economic growth the world has seen. It’s time to go even bigger.
Just five years after the 2008 global financial crisis, 12 economies spanning the Pacific are negotiating a colossal new multilateral trade agreement. The Trans-Pacific Partnership—with its focus on a host of 21st-century trade issues, such as data flows, financial regulations and intellectual property—will be the most sweeping and significant free-trade agreement ever.
Japan’s impending entry into the TPP means that the deal’s participants already account for 40% of global gross domestic product. Yet an obvious and vital participant is still missing: China.
The collapse of the Soviet empire, the consolidation of a democratic Europe, China’s entry into the World Trade Organization, the integration of the North American economy, and the emergence of a billion new members of the global middle class have all shown the power to transform the world before our eyes.
Trade and the revolution in North American energy production are quickly undercutting false narratives of American decline. U.S. manufacturing is expanding. The American culture of innovation and capacity for adaptation are boosting competitiveness. There is an opportunity to generate even stronger sustained growth. Prosperity in a globalized world is not zero-sum: The United States is a resurgent power in the 21st century partly because others are growing in influence.
That is why the next step must be to engage China fully in the Trans-Pacific Partnership. China’s foreign trade has increased to nearly $4 trillion today from $20 billion in 1979, as open international markets and its peoples’ labor fueled the country’s immense economic growth.
China’s growing political and economic power generates two reactions among its neighbors. One is a desire, which the U.S. shares, for close economic and trade links to Asia’s largest economy. The other is a desire among Asian nations for close security ties with Washington, as a hedge against Chinese policies that many fear may turn increasingly aggressive.
The Obama administration’s pivot toward the Pacific addresses those security concerns. Indeed, American political and security relations across the Asian-Pacific region are generally excellent.
Yet the Trans-Pacific Partnership shouldn’t be about hedging.
TPP is at its core an affirmative and inclusive initiative. Its members are working to shape a contemporary, open and rules-based system of trade and commerce that will drive global growth and opportunity for decades.
It is in the interests of the U.S. that China be part of this partnership. It is inconceivable that either nation could thrive if the other doesn’t.
Leaders in China, like everywhere else, have to respond to a changing world. This requires constant evaluation of interests and policies, and decisions about how best to connect with a public whose expectations are evolving rapidly. The recent opening session of the 12th People’s Congress in Beijing reflected a clear understanding of this dynamic. Leaders emphasized the importance of strengthening the rule of law and ceding more economic space to the market.
This creates an important opportunity for China’s new leaders. China can ultimately be one of the biggest beneficiaries of the TPP and its high standards on investment, services and intellectual property. Yet the country’s leaders don’t currently see their interests that way. This is an important moment. The U.S. must find ways to talk to a wide spectrum of stakeholders in China—from entrepreneurs to Communist Party officials—on TPP and a shared future as leaders in global trade.
There were two hinge moments of history in the past century. In 1914, an era of technology- and trade-driven globalization came to an explosive end. In 1945, another world war came to a close but with a better turn—toward the gradual development of an international order that promoted growth, rights, security and stability.
We are again at a hinge moment. China and the U.S. are destined to be the two most important powers of the 21st century. As a practical matter, we must be able to reconcile somewhat divergent but not opposed views and interests. Today’s opportunities are historic—and our response to them must be too.
David Dreier, former Congressman from California, is chairman of the Annenberg-Dreier Commission at Sunnylands.