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Why President Obama’s Trade Deal Matters to U.S. National Security

There's no question that our security will be increasingly tied to the Asia Pacific. If we don't set the rules of the road on trade in this region, other nations will.
"When fewer people suffer in poverty, when our trading partners flourish and when we bind our economy closer to others in a strategically important region, America is both stronger and safer. But none of this will happen if the TPP doesn’t become a reality. That’s because the Asia-Pacific region will continue its economic integration, with or without the United States. We can lead that process, or we can sit on the sidelines and watch prosperity pass us by."

America’s trade policy has an enormous impact on the economic well-being of the American people, and the strategic interests of the United States. Trade can support American jobs, eliminate taxes on American exports, help American businesses reach new markets, protect the environment, promote stronger labor standards, combat human trafficking, defend the intellectual property of American innovators, and shape a better future for our children — those are the types of agreements that President Obama has pursued.

For years, President Obama worked with 11 other major economies to secure the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a high-standards trade agreement that ensures that the United States will have the access we need to the largest emerging market in the world. The Asia Pacific region within TPP encompasses nearly 40 percent of the world’s GDP. Shaping the rules of the road for trade in this region is good for our workers and businesses — and it is good for our national security as well. 

There is no question that our security and prosperity will be increasingly tied to the Asia Pacific. If America doesn’t set the rules of the road for trade in this region, other nations will. And there is no question that an emerging China will be better positioned to shape trade agreements that set America back and do not represent our values. As President Obama noted this week, China has already met with more than a dozen nations with the goal of reaching their own trade deal, the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP). So this is not a hypothetical it will be a reality that America will be less able to stand up for our workers and businesses if we do not approve TPP. 

We have enormous interests in the Asia Pacific. In addition to our economy, we need to secure our allies, protect our environment, promote peace and stability, ensure the free-flow of commerce, and stand up for human rights. But the nations of the Asia Pacific want to know that America will remain a Pacific power, as we were throughout the 20th century. A failure to follow through with TPP — an agreement that we shaped, alongside countries that include traditional allies and emerging partners — will send a message of disengagement at a time when we need to be demonstrating leadership. 

We face a choice that is fundamental to our economic and national security — we can either shape the future of the world’s largest emerging market or we can sit on the sidelines and let other nations move to the forefront. That would be bad for our economy, and for our leadership in the world. 

Those are the stakes. And that’s why current and former national security leaders — from both sides of the aisle — have been clear about the importance of TPP to our national security: 

John J. Hamre, President of the Center for Strategic and International Studies

"The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) is the single best assurance we have that the United States will lead a broad coalition of like-minded states committed to reinforcing the rules-based order in Asia. TPP is a comprehensive, high-standard trade agreement that brings together 12 Asia-Pacific economies representing some 40 percent of global GDP, including four key partners in the Western Hemisphere — Canada, Mexico, Chile, and Peru — to tear down market-access barriers and establish new rules on regional trade and investment.
"TPP promises significant economic benefits for the United States. Once ratified and fully implemented, the agreement is expected to produce income gains for the United States on the order of half a percent of GDP. Most of the benefit would come from an expansion of higher-value exports and delivery of sophisticated services to the Asia Pacific. Foreign direct investment into the United States is also likely to grow substantially, with the prospect of new jobs for Americans."


Retired Lt. General Dan Christman

"If one is concerned about China's behavior ... if they are a challenge to U.S. interests, the importance of TPP from a security and foreign policy perspective cannot be understated."


Former Republican Senator and former Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel

“Supported by congressional veterans of the war led by Sens. John McCain and John Kerry, the U.S. legalized trade with Vietnam and signed a bilateral trade agreement, and sent a former prisoner of war, Pete Peterson, to Vietnam as the first U.S. ambassador to that country. A Vietnamese higher-education project backed by the State Department’s Fulbright program continues to this day.
“Four presidents — two Republicans and two Democrats — have sustained this effort. The bipartisan nature of the story has lately taken an unfortunate turn with leading presidential candidates of both parties opposing the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement, which includes Vietnam among its signatories.”



"And let us be clear: trade rules written by China would not promote a trading system consistent with American interests and values. ... 
“With a trade agreement of this magnitude, there will be elements that some dislike, but the overall benefits to our economy and national security cannot be overstated. Our leadership in a troubled world is dependent on our military, diplomatic, and economic power. We cannot afford to weaken any element of our strength at this critical time."

Secretary of State John Kerry

“I have worked from day one to emphasize that foreign policy is economic policy and economic policy is foreign policy. Without a doubt, these trade agreements are at the center of defending our strategic interests, deepening our diplomatic relationships, strengthening our national security, and reinforcing our leadership across the globe. And the importance, my friends, cannot be overstated.”


Secretary of Defense Ash Carter 

“One of the most important strategic parts of the rebalance is the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade pact. TPP will bind the United States more closely together with 11 other economies, and unlock economic opportunities for the United States and many of its allies and partners. And TPP will help reinforce the open and inclusive economic approach that has benefited so many in the Asia-Pacific.
“TPP should be ratified because of its economic and strategic benefits, and because we must recognize what the alternative to TPP really is: a regional economy with standards that don’t serve American interests, and one that’s carved up by lop-sided, coercively negotiated, lower-standard deals. That’s why I’ve said that TPP is as strategically important to the rebalance as an aircraft carrier, and I strongly urge Congress to approve TPP this year.”


To learn more about how the Trans-Pacific Partnership shores up our national security, click here.