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The Trans-Pacific Partnership: An Economic Hard-Power Weapon?

Jun 05 , 2015

Consider the Trans-Pacific Partnership as an economic hard power weapon.

The TPP can’t deal out death like the US 7th Fleet. But a lot of the language used about the TPP is more geopolitics than geoeconomics.

The TPP is an attempt to shape Asia’s strategic environment, a hedging device and a major expression of the U.S. rebalance. The TPP is about boosting U.S. power and excluding China’s power. The TPP is zero sum—members are supposed to win and non-members miss the benefits. Plenty of hard power in all that.

As previously argued, the TPP is about who rules and who writes the rules.

That was the proposition Barack Obama put in his State of the Union address, and repeated in his interview with the Wall Street Journal:

“If we don’t write the rules, China will write the rules out in that region.”

As an expression of U.S. rule making, what will the TPP mean for Asian geopolitics if it comes into existence? Let’s make a few big assumptions. Assume the U.S. Congress does give approval to the TPP fast-track. Japan and America would then quickly resolve their bilateral arguments. Tokyo and Washington are “very close to a deal,” according to Yoshiji Nogami, former Vice-Minister of Foreign Affairs, and now president of the Japan Institute of International Affairs.

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