U.S. President Donald Trump has instructed the USTR to study the conditions for the U.S. to return to the TPP. While doubts remain about his true intent, the TPP 11, including Japan, should persist in urging the U.S. to participate.
Trump indicated at the World Economic Forum held in Switzerland in January that the U.S. could return to the TPP on certain conditions. This was mostly in consideration for the discontent of the farm and industrial sectors that would be disadvantaged in exporting to the TPP members.
This time he talked about returning to the TPP at a meeting with legislators and governors of the agricultural states. There is no denying that this was meant to consolidate support for the midterm elections in November.
Nevertheless, this development is of great significance in prodding the U.S. to return to the TPP. The 11 nations that signed the new TPP agreement account for over 10% of the world’s GDP. The participation of the U.S. would raise this figure to 40%. This will, no doubt, enhance the value of the TPP, which is supposed to serve as the model for high-standard free trade and investment agreements.
The U.S.’s participation is also indispensable for establishing fair and transparent economic rules for the Asia-Pacific growth center and to contain the spread of Chinese state capitalism. This would also be in the U.S.’s own national interest.
Even if the U.S. gets really serious about returning to the TPP, there is no doubt that the hurdle for renegotiation will be very high. In his tweets Trump has criticized Japan and the other TPP members for hurting the U.S. through trade and said the U.S. will only join the TPP under better conditions .
However, the TPP members were finally able to sign a new accord after a long and arduous negotiation process. They are naturally not keen on making changes affecting the very foundation of the TPP.
It is not possible for them to accept “America First” demands similar to the ones that Trump has presented at the renegotiation of the U.S.-ROK free trade agreement (FTA) and NAFTA.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe will be meeting with President Trump in the U.S. on April 17-18. We hope that there will be discussions on finding a way to bridge the gap between the TPP members and the U.S. without bending the TPP’s principles. (Slightly abridged)