Print PDF

President Optimistic on TPP, Assertive on China Ahead of Leader Meeting

Tuesday, September 22, 2015
Sandler, Travis & Rosenberg Trade Report

In recent remarks to the Business Roundtable, President Obama was optimistic about the prospects of wrapping up talks on an Asia-Pacific free trade agreement and assertive on a number of irritants with China ahead of a key meeting with that country’s president.

TPP. Obama said he believes that the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement can be finalized by the end of 2015. Most chapters have been completed, he said, and trade ministers will “have the opportunity to close the deal” when they meet again “sometime in the next several weeks.”

He cautioned, however, that securing congressional approval of TPP is not a foregone conclusion despite the bipartisan cooperation that yielded a reauthorization of trade promotion authority. “The reason,” he explained, “is that the politics around trade are tough.” Democrats are wary of trade liberalization because of “mistakes” in past trade agreements such as inadequate protections for labor, the environment and intellectual property, while among Republicans there are isolationist “impulses … creeping into the trade debate.” He therefore encouraged businesses to be active in promoting TPP among their congressional representatives.

China. Ahead of a state visit by Chinese President Xi Jinping this week and amid growing bilateral tensions on a range of issues, Obama talked tough. China “was essentially riding on our backs for the last 30 years because we were underwriting peace, security, [and] the free flow of commerce,” he said. Now that China is a rising economic and political power, the president’s message is “you’ve got to step up.” He criticized Beijing for acting like “a third-world country” by pursuing protectionist policies, dumping goods abroad and failing to protect intellectual property rights. He repeated a frequent call for China to turn from the export-driven economic strategy that has been responsible for its economic rise over the past 20 years because “there’s not enough global market to absorb” continued increases in Chinese production. Obama also called on China to “start abiding by a basic code of conduct and a set of rules” in its dealings with other countries instead of “pushing [its] little neighbors around just because [it’s] bigger.” He attributed the difficulty in effecting change within China to the fact that in some areas “they still see themselves as the poor country that shouldn’t have any obligations internationally” while in others “they still feel … that we are trying to contain them.”

Export-Import Bank. Authorization for the Ex-Im Bank expired this summer and supporters are working to get lawmakers to pass a reauthorization this fall. Obama expressed support for such an outcome, noting that the export financing provided by the Ex-Im Bank “is the only way that [some businesses] can get into [foreign] markets,” and expressed his expectation that “it gets done during the course of these budget negotiations.”

To get news like this in your inbox daily, subscribe to the Sandler, Travis & Rosenberg Trade Report.

Customs & International Headlines