HONG KONG–Calling the Trans-Pacific Partnership a “most excellent of initiatives”, United States Consul General for Hong Kong and Macau, Kurt Tong, said Tuesday he hopes that the deal–or pieces of it–can be revived.
Although Tong said he did not know what the U.S. would do in regards to the 12-nation deal, he stressed its importance. “I personally continue to believe that TPP is an extraordinarily valuable framework,” Tong said during a lunch at the Foreign Correspondents’ Club. “The text negotiated has very high quality language agreed to by many important of economies addressing many of the most important issues on trade and investment in the region in ways that continue to be relevant.”
President-elect Donald Trump, whose inauguration day is just ten days away, has repeatedly railed against the deal, while also threatening to undo existing trade agreements like NAFTA.
Tong blamed economic anxiety in the U.S. for the inability to ratify the agreement, saying “the anxiety that people are feeling in the U.S. about their economic condition overwhelmed the logic of the agreement and demonstrated advantages of participating in the agreement in the popular discussion about trade policy.”
He continued: “I do firmly believe that the pieces, the content of TPP is extraordinarily valuable and should not be discarded easily by the U.S. or anyone else in the region. Even China, I think, sees the value of many of the pieces of content in the value of TPP. My hope is that somehow, despite the political headwinds that we face in the U.S…that some of this content can be harvested and packaged, and made into realized policy change in the economies of the region.”
The China-led RCEP agreement, which excludes the U.S., has been floated as a possible alternative to TPP. Tong also addressed concerns that the incoming administration would adopt a protectionist stance and withdraw much of its influence from the region, in contrast to the Obama government.
“Whatever the terminology that’s used to refer to it–pivot or rebalance or something else–regardless I think the U.S. will be very active and forward leaning with Asia Pacific,” he said, adding that 60 percent of American trade is conducted with Asia Pacific countries.