By Julia Schoonover
On Tuesday, October 13, 2015 the World Affairs Council- Washington, DC hosted a Foreign Policy Panel Series event, “TPP: What it means for the United States and International Trade.” The TPP agreement, or Trans- Pacific Partnership was signed on October 6, 2015. This agreement will be the biggest free trade agreement in the world, involving 12 countries and encompassing 40% of the worlds economy.
The WAC-DC event was moderated by Nicole Bivens Collinson, President of International Trade & Government Relations at Sandler, Travis & Rosenberg, P.A. Ms. Collinson opened the discussion by explaining the timeline of the TPP agreement and the agenda for the night.
Ms. Collinson addressed speculation that the bill could be put into effect by April 2016, saying that this was unlikely, as politics will come into play, therefore delaying its enactment. She affirmed that plenty of time will be allowed to think and to consider this agreement, as it is likely months away from passing.
The first panelist to speak was Dr. Gary Clyde Hufbauer, the Reginald Jones Senior Fellow at the Peterson Institute for International Economics. Dr. Hufbauer began his remarks by stating that he was a proponent of this agreement. He estimated that it would take around 10 years for the bill to be fully enacted. Mr. Hufbauer encouraged the audience to remember that societies can not only gain from imports but also from exports. He later stated that trade agreements don’t increase or decrease the total amount of jobs in the economy. He accredited this to the idea of job churn: the jobs you lose in exports you gain in imports. As an economist, Dr.Hufbauer saw this deal as, “a modest improvement to the world.”
The second panelist to speak was Murrary Hiebert, Senior Fellow and Deputy Director of the Sumitro Chair for the Southeast Asia Studies at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS). Mr. Hiebert viewed the TPP agreement as the center of US-Asia economic strategy. He discussed the need for public support of this agreement from government officials and economists. He highlighted two specific countries involved in the agreement: Vietnam and Malaysia. Vietnam is set to be one of the biggest projected beneficiaries of this agreement with a hypothesized 36% GDP growth. Mr. Hiebert stated that this will force domestic reform within the country. Malaysia also stands to benefit from the forced economic reform and balance of power in the economic sector because of their current imbalances. Although the Vietnamese and Malaysian governments have much to benefit, it is anticipated that they will both receive pressure from the US Congress to reform workers’ and human rights.
When questioned on the need for transparency in these types of agreements, both panelists responded that the amount of transparency in regards to this deal was sufficient. The panelists both agreed that when making deals there is a need for a balance between efficiency and openness, and this was met in the TPP agreement. When asked, “How can we best prepare our students and younger generations for success in a society that this agreement would impact the most?”, Ms. Collinson answered by saying, “to anticipate what the world will look like in 10 years is hard.” For example, in 2005, very few people were considering paying for their McDonalds on their smartphones; now this is becoming common practice. The panelists challenged that where our society will stand economically, socially, and technologically in 10 years are still very much up in the air.