The United States, Japan and trade
Don't treat trade as a weapon
An Asian-Pacific trade deal looks within reach, but politicians should stop seeing it as a way to contain China
GOOD news out of Washington is rare. Last week congressional leaders agreed on a bipartisan bill which, if passed, would for the first time in years give the president “fast-track” authority when negotiating trade deals. The bill would be a boost for the prospects of a huge trade deal, the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), binding America with 11 economies (including Japan but not China) around the Pacific rim. Now, as if on cue, come welcome signals about the TPP itself. As Japan's prime minister, Shinzo Abe, prepared to head to Washington for a much-anticipated trip including an invitation to address a joint session of Congress (see article), he claimed that America and Japan were close to agreement over their bilateral terms—on which the whole TPP deal hinges.
从华盛顿传来了罕见的好消息。上周美国两党达成共识，如法案通过，美国总统在贸易协定谈判领域可获得快车道授权。该法案将成为促进贸易协议的最大助力点，且能促进跨太平洋伙伴关系(TPP)的形成。TPP即指，美国联合环太平洋的十一个国家（包括日本，但不包括中国）而形成的经济战略伙伴关系。现在，不出人所料，一切的好消息都是向着TPP顺利谈成而发展的。备受瞩目下，日本首相安倍晋三 (Shinzo Abe)将前往华盛顿，包括受邀在国会议席上发表讲话(见文章)，他声称美国和日本正在就TPP协定关键的双边协议条款进行商讨，就快达成一致了。
Yet there are two big caveats. First, fast track, formally known as Trade Promotion Authority, may still fall foul of Congress. Second, Japan may not make any serious cuts to tariffs that protect its farmers. Those outcomes are more likely because the Obama administration and the Japanese government have made a similar mistake: both have been too quick to cast the TPP as a weapon in the containment of China.
Flanked by Japan and America, the TPP would link countries which make up 40% of global GDP. It could boost world output by $220 billion a year by 2025. It is supposed to reform difficult areas such as intellectual property, state-owned firms and environmental and labour standards. It would join economies—from Vietnam to Australia—that lie at different ends of the spectrum of development.
But the TPP will not happen without fast track, which forces Congress into a yes/no vote on any pending trade deal and so avoids the risk that it will be amended into oblivion. And the passage of fast track faces a lot of scepticism from Democrats (see article). Some are implacably opposed. Others want America to have a bigger arsenal with which to fight against unfair traders. Driven by a conviction that China artificially holds its currency down and destroys American jobs, Charles Schumer, a powerful senator from New York, is determined that fast track should include a provision that would make sure a trade deal included sanctions on currency manipulation.
但TPP必须以快车道授权为先决条件，才有其存在的意义。这也迫使国会尽快对这个一直悬而未决的贸易协定进行投票,以避免该法案被遗忘。但快车道授权仍受到许多来自民主党的质疑(见文章)。其中一些人对此法案表示坚决反对。而其他人则希望美国有一个更为强大的军力来对抗不公平的交易。 来自纽约的强有力的参议员查尔斯?舒默(Charles Schumer)，坚信中国人为的控制人民币汇率并破坏美国的就业机会, 因而他认为快轨授权应包括一项足以确保贸易协议能对汇率操纵进行制裁的条款。
Attaching a currency-manipulation clause to trade deals is a poor idea, both because the practice is hard to define and because the addition of such clauses makes reaching an agreement less likely. But since the Obama administration has pitched TPP as a counterbalance to an assertive China, Mr Schumer's demands are harder to ignore.
Give trade a chance、
The same mistaken logic looks set to cause problems in Japan. Mr Abe committed his country to joining the TPP on strategic grounds—as a counterweight to China—rather than because he is a born admirer of free trade. When he entered negotiations, some of his backers thought that, by playing the China card, Japan would be spared from making real concessions: that America would care more about a pact that excluded China than about prising open Japan's most protected markets, particularly rice. Even now, Japan seems to want to keep tariffs high. The best it may offer is to allow in a fixed quota of tariff-free rice from the TPP's other members, America included.
If the China-containment logic leads to a minimalist agreement, then the economic gains from TPP will be slim. TPP's real value is to set high new standards for world trade, and that demands the boldest possible agreement. And in the long run the world gains most if China joins. The rhetoric makes trade negotiations sound like a contest. In fact, it is a battle where the more you give away the more you win.