The situation in the Pacific does not leave room for any delays. Many things are happening and all bear an unequivocal mark: Chinese expansion. Beijing’s diplomatic success securing support for its creation—the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank—is only the latest act of an assertive foreign policy, conceptually judged peaceful or aggressive depending on convention and point of view. For this reason, Washington—isolated in its refusal to endorse the AIIB—has run for cover. Congress changed the script of its foreign policy and authorized the construction of a “fast track,” a preferential high-speed protocol for closing the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), whose negotiations have stagnated since 2005. Twelve countries on both shores of the Pacific (including Latin America) have undertaken interminable rounds of negotiations that have taken on strong political connotations. Hinging on the partnership between the US and Japan, the TPP encompasses 40% of the global GDP and has an evident anti-Chinese stamp.
Congress accelerated the talks with a bipartisan decision to expedite the process, rewriting the usual script. In the US, marriages are celebrated with the priests’ ritual formula: “speak now or forever hold your peace.” Now, the timing is reversed: let the negotiators work without interference, then the legislature will discuss and vote on the whole final package. A Trade Promotion Authority will be established to accelerate the administrative steps before the final vote. This will be combatted in the house, while passage through the Senate should be guaranteed. Obama declared that he was very satisfied with the agreed upon fast track because he knows that he will hardly lack the necessary votes in the face of a well-structured result. In any case, opposition to the TPP (and therefore to the agreed upon privilege) is strong in congress and especially concentrated in the Democratic Party.
In fact, a few of Obama’s strong electoral bases oppose the agreement. The motivation is simple: a diffuse fear of losing jobs, being exposed to international competition based on low salaries, and seeing the welfare state eroded. These are the preoccupations of factory workers, unions, and minorities—especially Hispanic—who perform unspecialized labor. Perhaps less concrete evaluations also exist, but they involve liberal public opinion, fears of poor respect for human rights, environmental standards, business ethics, and favor multinationals that only nurture their own profits. Finally, a part of the Republican Party opposes the fast track to deny Obama an important weapon in view of the upcoming elections next year. The President piloted his party and the less ideological fraction of the Republicans towards an important deal that will open the road for the TPP. He knows that some sectors of his country will be penalized, while others will be favored (especially agriculture and services). He continues to trust the virtues of a governed globalization where the elimination of duties and obstacles to the movements of productive forces might not be painless but will certainly increase overall wealth.