April 27, 2014
President Obama is touring South East Asia to boost support for an extensive trade deal on which his current economic plan is heavily reliant. In order to create opportunity in the U.S. and more significantly participate in booming economies worldwide-most notably Asia-the White House is working to secure the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), which would expand U.S. trade deals from the Pacific Rim to Latin America. Perhaps Obama’s biggest challenge will be to earn support needed to gain additional market access in Japan.
Last week, crucial meetings took place between Obama and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe when they reviewed the position of trade issues in regard to Japan’s heavily protected automotive and agricultural sectors. The United States wants Japan to open its agricultural market to U.S. competition. This was perhaps Obama’s largest negotiation obstacle given Japan is extremely protective of the country’s family owned and run rice and beef markets.
The other challenge in these talks is Democratic opposition to the TPP due to concerns that more new Japanese vehicles and low cost Asian goods from countries like Vietnam could negatively impact U.S. markets while allowing other countries to bypass and find new ways around U.S. regulations.
Another hurdle for the U.S. is convincing Asia what it might offer for mutual and equal benefit through the TPP. The White House needs to convince them that the trade deal can help sluggish economies such as Japan’s agricultural and car industry by opening up access to these sensitive and highly protected industries in their country.
“As the conventional wisdom goes, if Japan and the United States can sort out market access issues, agriculture, automobiles, then this massive trade deal can at last be concluded,” said Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.), one of the pact’s leading opponents, as recently reported by The Hill.
Obama’s trip across Asia also includes Malaysia as well as South Korea and the Philippines. While Malaysia is already a part of the TPP, the latter two have indicated interest in one day joining the group.
It seems there is still much work to be done. According to the Wall Street Journal, Japan's economy minister, Akira Amari said, “none of the core outstanding issues in the talks have been resolved.”
Founder & CEO, Tiger-Consulting