As the United States prepares for Donald Trump’s presidency, U.S. citizens can expect several changes concerning their international trade partnerships. One cornerstone of Barack Obama’s presidency, the Trans-Pacific Partnership, has gained a share of detractors, which include the current president-elect. As president, Trump may revoke involvement in the partnership, an action that may have consequences for the United States and global economies.
In an op-ed piece written by Trump in USA TODAY, he stated, “One of the factors driving this economic devastation is America’s disastrous trade policies.” He discussed problems related to the policies described in the TPP. In the same op-ed piece, Trump also likened the problems he sees in the TPP to those that occurred with the North American Free Trade Agreement, writing, “Since the North American Free Trade Agreement was signed in 1993, we’ve lost approximately 900,000 jobs to Mexico alone.” Trump has criticized the TPP in his speeches and via Twitter as well.
The TPP was signed by 11 Pacific Rim countries, including the United States, on Feb. 4, 2016. Its laws are designed to lower tariffs and other trade barriers between participating countries. The approximately 5,000-page document also stipulates laws related to the environment, protecting workers’ rights and laws that involve digital transmissions and private and state digital ownership.
In theory, applying the tariff provisions outlined by the TPP will lead to greater trade volume between Pacific Rim nations. According to the U.S. Trade Representative, the United States has an average applied tariff rate of 1.4 percent, less than half of the average world tariff rate. Facing higher tariffs on the goods that they export, U.S. businesses are at a disadvantage when they trade internationally, since foreigners are incentivized to buy cheaper, homegrown versions of U.S. goods. Lowering the existing tariffs should encourage expansion of international trade.
Although the trade partnership may cause a growth in some international trade sectors, it will also likely lead to a decrease in others. Trump is not alone in his stance against the TPP. Politicians of varying political backgrounds and leading economists have also voiced several concerns with the TPP. For example, in May 2015, Nobel Memorial Prize-winning economist Paul Krugman cited an article from 2013 by Doctors Without Borders, which noted that the TPP may prevent people in developing countries from accessing medicines made by big pharmaceutical companies. Certain digital rights organizations have also voiced additional concerns with the TPP’s effect on the transmission of digital goods.
Overall, barrier-free international trade is not a part of Trump’s stated economic positions and, unsurprisingly, the adjustments cumulatively proposed by the TPP are not either. Whether or not the United States ultimately decides to stay in the Trans-Pacific Partnership, it remains to be seen just how much of Trump’s proposed policies will actually come into effect.