WASHINGTON — Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull on Tuesday emphasized his support for the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a deal to lower trade barriers among Pacific Rim countries, and said U.S. opponents should not fear the plan.
Speaking to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Turnbull called the TPP an essential element of the continued American presence in the Pacific and East Asia.
“The TPP is critical to the peace and stability that the United States has underwritten in our region,” Turnbull told the Chamber of Commerce audience. The breakfast was part of Turnbull’s first visit to the United States since he was elected prime minister in September.
The Trans-Pacific Partnership is a free-trade agreement among the United States and several countries in the Pacific, notably excluding China. The agreement is designed to increase the global circulation of U.S. goods.
Bernie Sanders, running against Hillary Clinton for the Democratic presidential nomination, and Republicans in the presidential pack have said the agreement isn’t transparent enough in terms of its details and how it was created.
“The more we can tie the economies of our region (together), the more transparent we become,” Turnbull said.
Sanders has said TPP would hurt wages and job growth within the U.S., criticizing it on his website as “designed to protect the interests of the largest multinational corporations at the expense of workers.”
Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., has also issued statements about the agreement’s “tilt toward giant corporations,” but Turnbull argued that the projected impact of the agreement would benefit the middle class. He said the expected results go beyond simple economics.
“Without being unduly critical of economists, I think they often miss the things that are hard to measure,” Turnbull said.
Joshua Meltzer, an expert on international trade law at the Brookings Institution, said he agrees with Turnbull’s analysis, noting that it is difficult for economists to “capture the full benefits” of such agreements.
“I think this is overall a very good agreement for the U.S. and in fact for all parties involved,” Meltzer said.
Meltzer specifically cited the deal’s benefits for small businesses. “Small businesses are becoming a part of the global economy in a way that was not previously possible and the TPP supports that.”
According to Meltzer, Turnbull, because he represents an American ally, can use his lack of a political agenda \ to emphasize the significance of this deal.
“He’s made it one of the focuses of his trip here to the U.S. by doing so, and making it clear that U.S. action on the TPP is crucial not only to the U.S., but is also important to Australia,” Meltzer said.
Myron Brilliant, executive vice president and head of international affairs at the Chamber of Commerce, said that there is still a great deal of work to be done on the TPP, but that he hopes Turnbull’s advocacy will help push it forward.