Departing U.S. trade chief warns against withdrawing from TPP

Obama attends the APEC Summit in Peru
U.S. President Barack Obama and U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman (R) speak during a meeting of Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) leaders at the APEC Summit in this November 19, 2016 file photo. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

January 10, 2017

By David Lawder

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – President Barack Obama’s departing chief trade negotiator warned the Trump administration on Tuesday that it risked abdicating U.S. leadership in Asia by scrapping Obama’s 12-country Pacific Rim free trade deal.

Michael Froman, in excerpts of his final speech as U.S. Trade Representative, said he agreed with Trump’s plan to take a tough stance on trade with China, adding that the Obama administration has filed 15 challenges to that country’s practices at the World Trade Organization over eight years.

But he said withdrawing from the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement would create a vacuum that China would fill as it draws countries into its own free trade deal.

“There simply is no way to reconcile a get-tough-on-China policy with withdrawing from TPP,” Froman in remarks to the Washington International Trade Association. “That would be the biggest gift any U.S. president could give China, one with broad and deep consequences, economic and strategic.”

The U.S. Congress has not approved the TPP, which the United States, Japan, Canada, Mexico and eight other countries agreed upon in October 2015.

President-elect Donald Trump has pledged to issue a formal notice of withdrawal from TPP on Jan. 20, his first day in office. He frequently criticized the trade deal during his campaign, calling it a “rape of our country.”

Froman said withdrawing would “abdicate” U.S. leadership in the Asia-Pacific region and effectively push traditional U.S. allies in the region “into China’s arms.”

China is negotiating a 16-country trade bloc that he said would set lower standards for labor, the environment, intellectual property rights, internet freedom and other key areas.

“It would be a strategic miscalculation of enormous proportions,” said Froman, who spent all eight years of the Obama administration, both as a White House deputy national security adviser and as USTR, working to promote and negotiate the TPP deal.

“Why would we cede our role as a Pacific power?” he said. “Does anyone really think U.S. interests are better served if China, rather than the U.S., writes the rules of the road?”

Without the TPP, he said, new export opportunities would be lost and current export market share would be eroded.

Froman’s successor will be Robert Lighthizer, a veteran Washington trade lawyer who has taken a more protectionist route, working through the Commerce Department to erect tariffs to benefit the U.S. steel industry and other manufacturers.

Lighthizer was deputy USTR in the Reagan administration at a time when the United States took a tougher stance against a flood of imports from Japan.

(Reporting by David Lawder; Editing by Lisa Von Ahn)

  • Major914

    Those arrogant and intrusive NWO mega-government, anti-american, anti-middle-class, Globalist gooks would flatulently hiss about not withdrawing from TPP, wouldn’t they?

    Globalism is evil to begin with, and is growing evil in the end–as designed and intended… Hanging is far too good for those filthy globalist b&st&rds….

  • Will8.1

    An argument from false premises, Asian countries that are supposed to drive the Asian Century and not USA.

    Since the latter part of the 20th century with booming export sectors and emerging middle-class consumer bases. The global production and supply networks that have taken shape in Asia produce much of what we consume so voraciously in the West. The Northeast Asian countries are also major consumers of energy imported from the Middle East, making them geopolitically important powers.If without America, there is no Asian century?

  • Axel Westby

    BS Froman! You don’t understand how to negotiate Froman, you have been a total failure for WE THE PEOPLE. Pls get the hell out of Washington! From January 20th and onwards it is FAIR TRADE and AMERICA FIRST, Froman, which is 180 from your incompetent thinking! Got it?

  • bucketnutz

    TPP was Never signed, so either this is Fake News or it is leveraging a false premise.

  • Clinicaleducator1

    The Chinese trade deficit is enormous.
    Question: Where the hell will China sell all that CRAP if there is no USA??
    Answer: $500,000,000,000 GONE!!
    Do the math. DRAIN the swamp!!!

  • Melanie

    Of course all of the political elite want it to stay the same, they are the ones profiting from it.

  • ImwithRome

    Michael Froman, isn’t he “The Sausage King of Chicago”?

  • badass

    hey Ahole, how much did red china paid you to say this?

  • Dave Chandler

    Crickets…no ones listening Reuters