A new round in the Pasific ring - HATICE KARAHAN

A new round in the Pasific ring

There is a video that says “Watch the journey of a cherry made in the U.S.” The page that appears as soon as you open the website prepared by the Obama administration for the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), features this.

The aim is to show what a Washington cherry, the farmer who produces that cherry and the country of that farmer, the U.S. will achieve after an agreement as big as the TPP.

It was a lovely video with the contribution of the U.S. cherry, which makes no headway getting stuck at the 20 percent tax on its way to Vietnam and the Aussie cherry hopping and jumping past the U.S. cherry with 0 percent tax. This must be the simplest way to narrate. Of course this video has been a narration “in the simplest way by all means.” However increasing U.S. exports is only one aspect of the issue. Because;

1-Even though Obama may not have been featured in this lovely film, as I have always been pointing out in my columns, the most essential American aim is to balance the power of China in the region and renovate the global power architecture and hold it in its hands. In other words, in the TPP geostrategic factors are quite dominant.

2-What both the U.S. and other partners will experience in terms of the multi-directional economic reflections of matters ranging from workers' rights to intellectual property and their individual and collective net effects, is quite a complicated issue.

Now, because of this chaos which couldn't be solved by anybody and in fact due to the very same chaos, we can say the TPP has a lot of opponents both within and without the U.S. Furthermore, despite the years-long reactions, a dozen countries, led by the U.S., insisted on continuing partnership negotiations. If you remember, in one of my July columns titled “Compass,” I wrote that the group gathered in Hawaii but the disagreements were ongoing. That time the TPP did not happen in Hawaii, but happened later in Atlanta. This week, 12 countries in the group shook hands in Atlanta and said “it seems like it's done.”

STILL RISKY

Of course they didn't say “it seems like,” I am adding that part. The reason why I added this is, besides the agreement made among the representatives of the countries in question, as they returned to their homes (for some it is risky), they would start the confirmation process. Nobody is sure how successful the confirmation process will go the U.S. in particular. The basic argument of the politicians and the other stakeholders in the country opposing the TPP in addition to ongoing disputes, is the claim that the American side is making concessions.

For example, (even though the details may not be known), another argument that is often used is about the medicine industry: It is questioned how the U.S., which knows that the preservation life of biotechnological medicines is 12 years, could agree to shorten this period. Also there are general questions that aren't relevant to the industry. One of these is the belief that U.S. workers will suffer as a result of the TPP. Even though the Obama administration says “more export means more work/salary,” the thought that the “jobs” in question may flow into the developing Pacific economies and its implications blurs minds.

And the short end of the stick for Obama is that it is never possible to please anybody because of the nature of the TPP. As tensions rise in the new period with the presidential race, many segments and intentions, from Trump to Clinton, are using the TPP as a rich material.

As for Obama, with his head held high despite all the criticism, it is like he is saying: “I am doing it for the greater good.”

Why the rush?

On the other hand, if we generalize it with a few of the previous examples and other similar ones, it is clear that the U.S. is rushing things and has chosen to adopt the change of opinion, which some call flexibility and others call concession.

Sensing the U.S.'s rush brings to mind the “fast track” trade agreement initiative that Obama took a few months ago. According to the authority that is also known as the “TPA,” the U.S. president presents the agreements on which already he shook hands to Congress for “yes-no” responses only and does not allow any changes on it. Although risky, it is fast from the beginning to the end. That's why the TPP followed the “fast track” and will continue to do so. Wasn't the authority received in June planned to quickly reach these days and get over these days just as fast?

“Fast track” is also valid for the other leg of Obama's global project, the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP). Yet we have no idea if Obama's presidential term will be long enough to see another fast track authority for the TTIP in the European front. Meanwhile I would like to remind again that the Volkswagen incident has the potential to affect the TTIP negotiation in various aspects.

Our duty

Mega trade agreements, the TPP, TTIP and the fast track developments emerging within this frame, are kind of a message for Turkey. As the necessity to be involved in the new global integration has been once more confirmed urgently, more specifically we witness the importance of our efforts to be a part of the TTIP. The issue on updating the Customs Union is a critical necessity in this context. Based on this, allow me to add that a trade integration between the U.S. and Turkey, whether it be with or without the TTIP, is important. We already discuss the Asian and other markets here.

While, for all this, it is necessary to paint urgently the picture of a Turkey that economically gives trust and hope, the balance in international relations need to be well maintained and not worn out.

…And to end the week, let's go back to our title. We know not what kind of surprises will emerge, but we can clearly say that the new round we have long been awaiting in the Pacific has started. Now in this context there will be two important stages. In the first and the short lap, in case the process is completed with the confirmation of the 12 countries, it may seem like the U.S. is one point ahead of China in the region. But the actual success will be clear in the second round which will last long if it begins.

Hence, in this stage, by presenting its performance both in the TTIP scale and against China's moves, the U.S. will be discovering the value of Obama's legacy.

If the legacy turns out to be of high value, creating a bigger cake, the U.S. cherry will take its place at the top.

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