Opinion | China’s Leaders Are Having Fun With Us. Who Can Blame Them?

While China’s admittance is not likely anytime soon (it requires unanimous consent of the members), just by applying Beijing is exposing how unserious the American far left and far right are when it comes to China. They rail against Beijing’s human rights policy and then they block one of America’s most effective tools to nudge — and that is the most we can ever do — China toward more transparency and the rule of law, i.e., TPP.

“Reformers in China carefully monitored the original TPP negotiations with the hope that China joining the TPP could lead to domestic reforms,’’ said James McGregor, the chairman of the consultancy APCO Worldwide, Greater China. “Those days are gone. In its new bid to join, China will likely try to use the lure of its huge market to entice the other members to live with China meeting some TPP requirements while muddying others.’’

What makes this Chinese maneuver more ridiculous is that Trump was so ignorant about the contents of the TPP before he tore it up — his main objection was surely that Obama had negotiated it — that when he was first asked about it in a campaign debate in November 2015, Trump incorrectly suggested that China was in it from the start. Trump was just ahead of his time!

But Trump’s foolishness had a lot of tacit support from Bernie Sanders and his fellow progressives with their knee-jerk opposition to the pact — even though it was designed by Obama to address all the core labor and environmental issues that the left did not like about free trade.

Let’s go to the videotape and recall what the Obama team — not Trump, not the G.O.P. — O-B-A-M-A — built into the original TPP, which also included Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore and Vietnam.

One of the largest multilateral trade agreements ever negotiated, it included restrictions on foreign state-owned enterprises that dumped subsidized products into our markets. It detailed intellectual property protections for the newest and most advanced American-made tech products — like free access for all cloud computing services, which China restricts. It set out explicit anti-human-trafficking provisions that prohibited turning guest workers into slave labor. It banned trafficking in endangered wildlife parts, a practice still common in China that may have played a role in the pandemic. It required signatories to permit their workers to form independent trade unions to collectively bargain and to eliminate all child labor practices.

Indeed, speaking on a trip to Australia in 2012, then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said that “this TPP sets the gold standard in trade agreements to open free, transparent, fair trade, the kind of environment that has the rule of law and a level playing field.” It would build in “strong protections for workers and the environment. … Respecting workers’ rights leads to positive long-term economic outcomes, better jobs with higher wages and safer working conditions.”

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