On Wednesday, September 28, Secretary Kerry delivered remarks at The Wilson Center on the US relationship with the Asia Pacific region, highlighting the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement as a means to strengthen our critical partnerships in the region while cementing America’s status as a world leader.
The Trans-Pacific Partnership will reinforce our status as a world leader intimately connected to the dynamic economies of the Pacific Rim, the fastest-growing economies in the world. And it will help strengthen norms and standards that are important to us – not just to other people or to everyone else in the region, but important to every citizen in the United States of America.
Let me be clear: the reverse is also true. If we reject TPP, we take a giant step backward, we take a step away from this vital platform for cooperation, we take a step away from our leadership in the Asia Pacific, we take a step away from the protection of our interests and the promotion of universal values, we take a step away from our ability to shape the course of events in a region that includes more than a quarter of the world’s population – and where much of the history of the 21st century is going to be written.
Now, there can be no doubt that TPP isn’t simply a stand-whole, standalone deal that just affects some trade barriers and some tariff rates. It’s a lot more than that, folks. It is a vehicle for raising the standards of doing business, for raising the standards and expectations between countries regarding transparency and accountability and the rules of the road and the resolution of conflicts in commerce. It deepens our commercial bonds and it steers us towards closer commercial ties and diplomatic ties in the region. It enhances our national security. It gives us greater credibility in cooperating with our Pacific partners on the long list of shared challenges that I mentioned a moment ago.
Now, you don’t have to take just my word for it. What I am expressing is the consensus view among top military experts and defense experts and defense and military officials from both political parties, and among key leaders at home and abroad and among ex-presidents and secretaries of state across the board.
Consider what a wide-ranging group of former generals, admirals, and secretaries of defense had to say. I quote, “If we fail to secure this agreement, our allies and partners would question our commitments, doubt our resolve, and inevitably look to other partners,” adding that “America’s prestige, influence, and leadership are on the line.”
Consider what my old colleague, Senator John McCain, chairman of the Armed Services Committee, said recently. Quote, “If TPP fails, American leadership in the Asia Pacific may very well fail with it.”
And beyond our borders, consider the choice laid out by Prime Minister Lee of Singapore, a key player in the region. In arguing the importance of TPP, the prime minister observed that where we wind up over the next half-century, quote, “really depends on whether we go towards interdependence and therefore peaceful cooperation; or whether we go for self-sufficiency, rivalry, and therefore a higher risk of conflict.”
Simply put, TPP is a key way to gauge American engagement in the Asia Pacific, in parts of our own hemisphere, and around the world. It is an essential platform for developing even closer diplomatic and strategic connections to our regional friends.
It also embodies the recognition on our part that in this era, there really is no such thing as standing still. No matter how much people resist – and I know there’s resistance and people are churning in various parts of the world over the transformation of globalization – but no politician, no political party, no person can stop what is happening because people have an ability to be able to communicate more effectively with each other than ever before in life. No one’s going to turn that off. If the United States just continues to do what we have in the past while others do more and more, we’re not going to be holding our own; we are going to be falling behind. And make no mistake – if we retreat from this agreement, every government in the region, every business, every labor union, every group of environmental advocates, and the commanders of every army and navy will notice. And they will notice it in a way that does not work for the United States of America. It will be a unilateral ceding of American political influence and power with grave consequences for the long term.
And I got news for you. They’re going to be asking themselves, hey, if we can’t count on the United States, where else should we turn? If the principles and rules written into the TPP don’t matter to the United States, why should we accept them? If America won’t enter into partnership with us on economic matters, why should we look to Washington for guidance on political or security matters?
The inescapable bottom line is that, with TPP, we will be far better positioned to enhance our national security and to protect our interests in the globe’s most dynamic region than we will be without this agreement.
So from my perspective as Secretary of State, the strategic case for TPP is not just crystal clear. It could not be more vital to the national security interests and the long-term strategic goals of the United States of America. And I can tell you from my years of serving in the Senate and representing a state and being concerned about all issues economic, it is directly connected to the economic case for our country.