Job Creation Stymied as Obama Strikes Out on Asian Trade Negotiations

A metaphor for President Obama’s recent trip to Asia was the widely aired game of soccer he had with a Japanese robot. In essence, Japan made Obama kick the impending Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) — which unites 12 economies around the Pacific Rim — down the road as trade talks stalled.

How important is TPP to American trade? The Peterson Institute for International Economics projects that it could cause American exports to rise by $123.5 billion per year by 2025. With it would come millions of U.S. jobs.

Once again, Obama set out to negotiate a trade agreement only to come back empty handed. He seemed to be disinterested and distracted. It says volumes about his lack of experience in foreign trade and tough negotiations.

That never stops him from making huge pronouncements about trade and not following through. Remember his pledge in 2010 to double exports in five years? That’s never going to happen as long as he remains ambivalent about trade issues.

Let’s not forget that Obama had an opportunity in October of 2013 to attend the summit in Indonesia that could have spurred the TPP, but due to the government shutdown, he decided to stay away. The upshot was that China ran roughshod over the conference and TPP was doomed without an American presence.

Yet in Japan last week, he was telling TV viewers that “American manufacturers and farmers need to have meaningful access to markets that are included under TPP, including here in Japan. That’s what will make it a good deal for America.”

That sounds nice; however, his own party has blocked his ability to gain fast track authority to negotiate the kind of trade agreement he was talking about on Japanese television. The Japanese recognize that they are negotiating with an empty suit.

Japan has always been adept at setting protectionist barriers for American imports. For example, it helped kill American car manufacturing.

And now Japan continues to set barriers that strike at the heart of American farmers. They have initiated agricultural protections for U.S. beef and rice.

This doesn’t sound like a big deal until you know that Japan is currently the No. 1 market for U.S. beef exports in terms of value and volume (234,615 metric tons, or 517 million pounds, valued at $1.389 billion in 2013).

Now new barriers are in place to try and slow that growth.

You may recall that a battle over beef exports nearly killed the South Korean Free Trade Agreement. That would have been tragic, since its passing is expected to grow U.S. exports to South Korea by as much as $11 billion and support a minimum of 70,000 new U.S. jobs.

Blame needs to be shared for our lack of progress in passing free trade agreements by focusing on the ongoing protectionism imposed by American trade unions that continue to perceive international trade as a threat. They have consistently stood in the way of trade talks that would have benefited both union and non-union workers.

Asia represents a largely untapped market for U.S. exports, but high tariffs, intellectual property theft, corruption and unfair labor practices present nearly impossible hurdles for American manufacturers to compete on a level playing field.

When the United States walks away hat-in-hand from trade negotiations, our prestige and power take a hit on the world stage. Obama’s failed Asian trip only diminishes our ability to impose our will on the global market.

TPP is vital to our economic growth and we cannot continue to flounder during trade negotiations. Congress must give Obama Trade Promotion Authority and wake up to the fact that unless we engage with the rest of the world on trade, other nations will step to the front, leaving American exporters out in the cold.

If not from an economic standpoint, then from a purely patriotic standpoint, let’s get behind TPP and give our entrepreneurs expanded markets to demonstrate the quality of American goods, craftsmanship and innovation.

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