Editor’s Note: Mireya Solís joins Renee Montagne and Jackie Northam on NPR’s Morning Edition to discuss the significance of President Obama’s upcoming trip to Asia and the Trans-Pacific Partnership.
Jackie Northam: President Obama’s first stop is in Tokyo, where he’ll meet with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. The U.S. and Japan are the center of gravity for the Trans-Pacific Partnership, making up 80 percent of its economic heft. Mireya Solís, a senior fellow and Japan specialist at the Brookings Institution, says Obama needs the agreement to help cement his Asia strategy. She says Abe also has a lot riding on the TPP.
Mireya Solís: What Japan needs to do, first and foremost, is to arrest the narrative of economic decline. It’s, you know, it’s now launching a very ambitious economic revitalization strategy known as Abenomics, and the centerpiece of that are structural reforms, certainly many of which are tied to the Trans-Pacific Partnership negotiations.
Jackie Northam: Analysts say if the U.S. and Japan can only reach broad agreement on principle, it would still give a tremendous boost to the other 10 nations to sign a deal. But negotiations between Japan and the U.S. have stalled, particularly over Japanese tariffs for commodities such as rice, says Solís.
Mireya Solís: And, you know, this has come really down to the wire. We know we’re running out of time. The President Obama and Prime Minister Abe are going to meet on Thursday. If a deal is to be made, it must happen before that all-important summit meeting.
Jackie Northam: Solís says failure to reach agreement during this trip would likely reduce momentum to finalize a deal with the other participants. She points out that there are other trade blocks emerging in Asia that include China, but not the U.S. But even if there is a breakthrough with Japan, the president could have trouble getting it through Congress. Already, there’s push-back against such a deal, says Democratic Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro, from Connecticut.
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[The exchange of threats and military posturing between the United States and North Korea] raises the stakes. With the United States and others talking far too loosely about the prospects of a pre-emptive strike, that’s what would trigger retaliatory actions by North Korea.