Frankly it is time for a backup plan. Even if Hillary Clinton is elected president of the United States, as appears likely, she is not going to move on this for a year or two and it is extremely difficult to predict what she will try to change in order to meet her election promises and what that might mean for every other country.
It would be best to assume that the U.S. won’t ratify this trade deal by the 2018 deadline. So what do the other 11 countries do? Wash their hands and moan about the loss of five or six years of effort or go forward with a revised version that allows the treaty to come into effect when the other 11 approve it. And then also move forward and invite the six countries that have expressed interest in joining — South Korea, India, Indonesia, Thailand, Taiwan, Philippines, Columbia plus India. But not China.
In a year or two, the U.S. might come back to the table. But in the meantime why waste all of this enormous effort that simply cannot be replaced with bilateral agreements? This is an area where Japan needs to step forward, fill any vacuum created by America’s isolationist cycle, and demonstrate real constructive leadership in the region.
The opinions expressed in this letter to the editor are the writer’s own and do not necessarily reflect the policies of The Japan Times.
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