Trump quitting TPP sends unclear signals

Source:Global Times Published: 2016/11/22 23:38:39

In a video issued Monday, US President-elect Donald Trump said he would pull America out of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade deal the first day he takes office. He called the TPP "a potential disaster" for the US. Trump reemphasized the position he campaigned on. If nothing unexpected happens, the death of the TPP is inevitable.

Apart from withdrawing from the TPP, the to-do list Trump outlined for his first 100 days in the White House spans energy, regulations, cyber security, visa abuse and lobbying bans. When making the six policy promises, Trump didn't mention anything about declaring China a currency manipulator. 

The economic cornerstone of the US Asia-Pacific rebalancing strategy, the TPP is considered one of the major diplomatic legacies of President Barack Obama. Throwing it into the dustbin of history is a bold move by Trump. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is a strong opponent of the move.

Trump said he would put America first and he wants the next generation of production and innovation to happen right in the US. His newly issued video demonstrates his understandings of US interests greatly differ from those of Obama. He seemingly wants to open a new door.

Is the door leading to isolationism or extreme protectionism? It's still unknown.

The US withdrawal from the TPP is of positive value to stop trade exclusionism and prevent the trade deal being a geopolitical game. But if Trump pursues "American interests first" at the cost of the interests of other trading powers, countries including China will be hit.

Trump, unlike previous US presidents and political elites who are fixated on geopolitics, is more willing to concentrate on rejuvenating the economy and boosting social development. However, some people worry that he will be reckless.

If Trump does believe protectionism is omnipotent, then his understanding is somewhat simplistic. If he really goes toward protectionism, it will cause serious damage to the prevailing rules of economic cooperation, leading to losses in both the US and its trading and investment partners.

For China, as long as the Trump team acts in a practical and realistic manner, it won't be very tough for future China-US economic and trade negotiations. Bargaining is inevitable, but any economic and trade arrangements between the two countries can only be made based on the maximization of common interests for both. The full meaning of "American interests first" must include giving full respect to the legitimate interests of other countries. Otherwise, it will be difficult for the US to reach new trade deals with other countries.

A closed-door policy is an old-fashioned idea that if held as a tenet by a big power would seriously cripple that country's vitality.

Trump is an inexperienced politician and is not bound by political stereotypes of veteran politicians like Hillary Clinton. This brings a major opportunity, as well as uncertainties, to international relations.

So far, Trump and his team have restrained from worsening US ties with other countries. It remains to be seen how he will deal with a string of old problems from Eastern Europe to the Middle East to East Asia. China needs to strengthen contacts and communications with the Trump team. Trump should know that China can be one of the best partners in the process of reviving the US economy.

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