The TPP’s Biggest Obstacles
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The TPP’s Biggest Obstacles

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People in the United States and Japan are overwhelming opposed to the Trans-Pacific Trade Partnership (TPP), according to a new survey.

On Wednesday the Pew Research Center released a major report on public opinion regarding international trade in numerous countries across the world. While support for trade is widespread globally, it was far more robust in emerging and developing countries than in developed ones. Even among the latter group, Japan and the United States were among the most downcast in their views of the benefits of global trade.

For example, just 19 percent of the world believes trade is destructive to employment in their country. However, no less than half of the American populace and 38 percent of Japanese respondents say that trade hurts jobs in their countries. Similarly, while only 21 percent of the world believes that trade lowers wages, this number rises to 47 percent in the United States and 37 percent in Japan. Just 10 percent of Japanese believe trade increases wages compared with 17 percent of Americans. Globally, those believing that trade increases wages outnumber those who believe the opposite by a two-to-one ratio.

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These views put Japan and the United States starkly at odds with the other TPP countries surveyed by Pew, including Vietnam, Malaysia, Chile, Peru and Mexico.

Vietnamese are the most favorable towards trade among TPP countries; 95 percent of respondents in that country say trade is good. Similarly, 78 percent of Vietnamese say trade creates jobs, 72 percent say it increases wages and 31 percent say it decreases prices. In all but the last category, Vietnam led other TPP countries surveyed.

Malaysia was close behind with 87 percent of respondents in that country saying that trade is good, 57 percent saying it increases jobs, 47 percent saying it increases wages while only 9 percent believes it reduces prices.

Besides Japan and the United States, Mexico was the least favorable towards trade among the TPP countries surveyed. Just 43 percent of Mexicans say that trade increases employment, 31 percent say it increases wages, and 24 percent say it reduces prices. Still, Mexico compares favorably to Japan where only 15 percent believe trade increases jobs and just 10 percent say it increases wages.

Americans were only slightly more favorable than their Japanese counterparts in this regard, with 20 percent of them saying that trade creates jobs and 17 percent saying it increases wages. Notably, 35 percent of Americans say trade reduces prices, which was the highest among the TPP countries surveyed (it’s worth noting that trade likely decreases prices more in advanced economies like the United States and Japan than it does in developing countries).

Still, Americans are the least supportive of trade generally, with only 68 percent of them saying that trade is a good thing. Japanese were a close second with only 69 percent of respondents in that country saying trade is good. Over 80 percent of people globally say that trade is good.

The survey underscores that Japan and the United States are likely to face the strongest opposition domestically in ratifying the TPP. Interestingly, opposition to the TPP is likely to be strongest among the political parties of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and President Barack Obama. In Japan, Abe’s Liberal Democratic Party has close ties to influential interest groups who oppose the TPP, especially the agricultural lobby.

Despite the treaty of the text still being negotiated — and few details are known about any of it — Democratic members of Congress have repeatedly spoken out about the treaty in large numbers. President Obama has also failed to gain the fast track authority that many believe is essential to getting the TPP approved in a form that is acceptable to America’s negotiating partners. Likely Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton has also said that she doesn’t believe the treaty could pass the U.S. Congress in today’s political climate.

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