The Prime Minister of Singapore on implications of rejecting TPP

I fear that Congress is headed towards a historic blunder–rejecting the centerpiece of American policy in Asia negotiated over many years by President Obama. Lee Hsien Loong, Prime Minister of Singapore, does an excellent job of describing what is at stake from a diplomatic perspective.

TPP is imperfect. I don’t like some of its provisions pertaining to public health. But rejecting it at this point, with so little apparent thought for the consequences, is an unforced error that calls into question our diplomatic credibility and competence. We once again present ourselves to the world as politically dysfunctional.

Author: Harold Pollack

Harold Pollack is Helen Ross Professor of Social Service Administration at the University of Chicago. He has served on three expert committees of the National Academies of Science. His recent research appears in such journals as Addiction, Journal of the American Medical Association, and American Journal of Public Health. He writes regularly on HIV prevention, crime and drug policy, health reform, and disability policy for American Prospect,, and other news outlets. His essay, "Lessons from an Emergency Room Nightmare" was selected for the collection The Best American Medical Writing, 2009. He recently participated, with zero critical acclaim, in the University of Chicago's annual Latke-Hamentaschen debate.

12 thoughts on “The Prime Minister of Singapore on implications of rejecting TPP”

  1. A couple things. First of all, is there a transcript somewhere? I don't like to get my news from video.

    Second, "credibility" is not a very good reason to do something stupid. Which this may be. And the fact that we got this far along is… the fault of the administration, no? Being secretive should not be *rewarded.*

    I'll look for a transcript and post it here if I find it. Never heard of that website though.

    1. Annnnd there it was right down at the bottom.

      Well, it's news to me that WWII happened because of protectionism. Hmm.

      I will check out the Prestowitz piece, thanks James!

      1. Wowsers.

        This is the first I've heard of this! "It is said that the definition of insanity is doing more of the same old thing and expecting a different result. If the very generous terms of trade, investment, and security already extended to these countries have not assured their geo-political support, it is unlikely that even more generous terms will do so – especially since even as they negotiate with the United States, virtually all of the TPP countries along with others like South Korea and India are negotiating the Comprehensive Regional Economic Program (CREP), which is China’s version of the TPP. You may, thus, count upon it that nothing contained in the TPP will change the behavior, loyalty, or drift of the TPP countries. As something to increase U.S. national security, the TPP is an empty vessel."

        Cheese and crackers. That really is a most eye opening piece, so thanks again James.

      2. Protectionism was part of the equation leading to WWII. It might be a stretch to say WWII wouldn't have happened without Smoot-Hawley, and where we are now is a long way from Smoot-Hawley anyway. Trumpism would be worse than S-H, though.

  2. The link above has his comments. Among them:

    " People talk about Walmart, that products come from all over Asia. Who benefits — Walmart? Many people in America, not just exporters, but even people living in the Rust Belt, people living in the Midwest. These are part of your everyday invisible standard of living, and yet it’s real and it’s valuable."

    He's either blindly oblivious, or worse, entirely uncaring as to exactly WHY it's called "The Rust Belt" and Walmart's large role in making it rusty.

    It's another technocrat's embrace of "Free Trade" with no thought whatsoever given to those harmed by it. Free Trade is GREAT…if you're a transnational corporation! They even get to say "Look it's raising up many poor parts of the world!" Yes. By grinding down the slightly less poor parts to the same level.

    A rising tide doesn't lift many boats after the 0.01%'s battleships have shelled the harbor for decades.

    The transnationals get unfettered access to markets, to ever cheaper labor, to lax or nonexistent environmental regulations, and now, with the TPP and it's ilk, global immunity to national laws. What's not to like for a wealthy industrialist like Loong and his peers?

    If TPP was so damned great why was it negotiated and then required that Congress vote on it sight unseen?

    1. The Rust Belt thing has as much or more to do with increased productivity as it does with free trade. The US manufacturing sector is as big a part of GDP as ever, but due to increased productivity employs relatively fewer people. Overall, that's a good thing.

      1. "Overall, that's a good thing." Why yes it is, if all you look at are financial data and discount entirely the human costs.

  3. The link has a further link to an "extraordinary" anti-TPP piece by Clyde Prestowitz. That's interesting, as he was an actual trade negotiator under Reagan. If he thinks TPP will make no difference to real trade obstacles, that's worth listening to.

    1. It could be that he is just part of the "Let's Make Obama Fail" cabal. TPP is a cheap way to do it, because while it would embarrass Obama, it would not greatly affect our trade position much either way.

  4. "…present[ing] ourselves to the world as politically dysfunctional", versus approving of a treaty whose purpose is to reduce business accountability, is the original false choice. Something went way wrong before we got to this point and talking about how to respond to some particular ninth- or fifteenth-order consequence, such as this, merely serves to evade the analysis of the root cause. We now have no good options and *certainly* none that present us to the world as functional.

    1. Negotiating a trade deal and then having it shot down by the party that was pushing for it and was an integral part of the negotiations (i.e., the Republican Chamber of Commerce Party), would be the definition of dysfunction.

Comments are closed.