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The U.S. Needs to Rejoin the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership
ONC Editorial

Jun 14, 2023

This Op-Ed discusses the importance of the U.S. rejoining the CPTPP in an effort to ameliorate blows to the economy, job market and trade relations. (The opinions expressed in this article are those of the individual author, whose information can be found below.)

The Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP), originally the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), was a free-trade agreement between 12 countries on both sides of the Pacific Ocean. It was initially signed but not ratified under the Obama administration. When former President Donald Trump took over in 2017, he withdrew the United States from the agreement, a decision that his successor, current President Joe Biden, has not reversed.

However, this was a major blunder. Keeping the U.S. out of the CPTPP is a detriment to the U.S. economy, jobs and trade relations. It puts America at a significant disadvantage in the burgeoning second Cold War with China. Although Biden stated that he is “not going to enter any new trade agreement with anybody until we have made major investments here at home and in our workers,” advances in trade would create jobs, not take any away. A 2020 study from Business Roundtable found that 40 million American jobs depend on trade; thus rendering the decision to leave the CPTPP a missed opportunity to create more jobs for the American people. 

Having the U.S. sign onto the free-trade agreement would–beyond lowering tariffs–provide the U.S. with the opportunity to infiltrate several countries’ protected industries worldwide. For example, the U.S. was slated to gain increased dairy exports to Canada under the CPTPP. Canada is notoriously protective over its dairy industry, which has been a point of contention between the two nations, as increased dairy exports to Canada would help solve the surplus American dairy farmers have produced in recent years. Re-joining the CPTPP would allow Americans to profit from cheaper goods through reduced tariffs and give American dairy farmers the rare chance to increase exports to Canada. 

Furthermore, a strategic reason to rejoin the agreement is to put the U.S. above China on the global playing field. U.S.-China relations have continued to sour under Biden’s presidency, with Biden calling it “a battle between the utility of democracies in the 21st century and autocracies.” China has been expressing interest in joining the CPTPP since Trump pulled the U.S. out of the agreement and, in September 2021, made a formal request to join. If China manages to successfully bypass protests from signatories and join the agreement, it will gain access to free-trade in 11 countries, scoring an economic win for China and putting the U.S. at a disadvantage in Biden’s “battle.”  

While there are valid concerns about the labor standards and environmental consequences in several countries signed on to the CPTPP, renegotiation of the labor standards and environmental sections of the agreement suspended after the U.S. left could easily remedy these concerns.

Biden’s main priorities for foreign policy at this time appear to be creating jobs, supporting American workers, beating China and expanding the sale of U.S. goods. Renegotiating and ratifying the CTPP into law could do all four. 

To see all sources consulted/reviewed/interviewed for the purposes of writing this article and/or to learn more about this article's author, Salma Ibrahim, click here.

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