The Chinese government will rejoice to hear Donald Trump promise that the US will quit the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) on his first day in the White House.
For years, Beijing has listened to the Obama administration say the 12-nation regional trade deal was a way of bolstering American leadership in Asia.
China was not included in the deal, and President Barack Obama went out of his way to remind the region that this was no accident. TPP allows America – and not countries like China – to write the rules of the road in the 21st Century, which is especially important in a region as dynamic as the Asia-Pacific.
Nor was this ever just about the rules on trade. TPP was a core part of the Obama administration’s strategic “pivot to Asia”. US Defence Secretary Ash Carter said that alongside boosting US exports, it would strengthen Washington’s key relationships in the Asia-Pacific, signal US commitment to the region and promote American values.
“Passing TPP is as important to me as another aircraft carrier,” he insisted.
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No wonder then that Beijing saw the US pivot to Asia, and the TPP within that, as a thinly disguised plan to contain China’s growing might. Just this weekend, the official Chinese news agency described TPP as “the economic arm of the Obama administration’s geopolitical strategy to make sure that Washington rules supreme in the region”.
But Donald Trump won the US presidency partly on a surge of voter hostility to trade deals and globalisation. Those who voted for him will see the promise to quit the TPP on his first day in office as honouring campaign pledges. That’s democracy.
But a nation also makes international pledges.
The trade deal Mr Trump is quitting is the same one to which his predecessor signed up and spent years urging allies to do the same. Beijing will now encourage regional Asian governments to compare the reliability of Chinese pledges with American ones.