The TPP Conundrum: Embracing Economic Cooperation Amidst Competing Domestic and International Interests

Racepoint Global

By Matthew Bennett SVP, Washington D.C. Practice Lead

Is the biggest trade pact in two decades, encompassing 12 countries and 40 percent of the world economy, a done deal, a devastating blow for workers, a political hot potato or some odd combination of all three that will create a firestorm of debate in the coming weeks?

On October 5th, the participating nations – Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, the U.S., and Vietnam – finalized the landmark Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) free-trade agreement that will reportedly reduce or eliminate tariffs on almost 18,000 categories of goods.

Here is the crux of TPP and any other major trade deals going forward (such as the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership – TTIP). For an economic and geopolitical power like the United States, effectively engaging the dynamic global economy while simultaneously protecting business and labor interests at home is all but impossible. Yet the U.S. cannot hold back from agreements like TPP – the alternative is other nations like China leading the global trade conversation, which could cause enormous repercussions at home and abroad. This tension creates difficult choices certain to upset many interests who will be significantly affected by the outcome of TPP.

TPP has been a major priority for the Obama Administration for more than five years. Upon news of the agreement, President Obama said, “If the tariffs are down, if the taxes are down on goods made in America, that means U.S. companies are investing here and are able to sell over there without a disadvantage. That’s what American leadership looks like in the 21st century. Under this agreement, we, rather than countries like China, are writing the rules for the global economy.”

Major industry and political interests are already positioning themselves on either side of the debate:

  • Hillary Clinton said, “As of today, I am not in favor of what I have learned about it…I don’t believe it’s going to meet the high bar I have set.”
  • Senator Bernie Sanders was “disappointed but not surprised” and promised to “do all that I can to defeat this agreement.”
  • Donald Trump tweeted, “TPP is a terrible deal.”
  • Labor unions and environmental groups panned the agreement. Leo W. Gerard, International President of the United Steelworkers (USW), said, “From what we know, the draft TPP threatens the future of production and employment.   It compromises the so-called 21st century standards that were supposed to form the foundation for this agreement,” and The Sierra Club said that TPP would “empower big polluters to challenge climate and environmental safeguards in private trade courts.”
  • Technology companies such as Cisco praised the deal, saying “TPP represents an important opportunity to lower trade barriers on technology goods and services, which benefits not just the producers, but more importantly, the users of cutting-edge technology.”
  • Other varied interests, from the automotive sector to cattle ranchers, quickly sought to make their views known in advance of the political debate on TPP.

Now the intense political process begins. The first step is the official White House notification to Congress of the president’s intent to sign the agreement. This notice launches a 90-day waiting period, where Congress has the first 30 days to private review the agreement. The next 60 days have the TPP agreement open for public review, which will feature a wide variety of comments from businesses, labor and other interest groups. The U.S. International Trade Commission will also conduct a full economic review of the deal. The agency has up to 105 days to complete that work but the process could take much less time. Finally, Congress has a maximum of 90 days to approve or reject the legislation approving the agreement.

As seen in the diversity of opinions expressed already, the debate on TPP, already on a compressed timeline, will be anything but simple. Effectively communicating complex policy messages in such a heated and partisan environment will require real time intelligence and informed strategy. To get beyond the rhetoric, the interested parties seeking to influence the final vote on TPP will have to know where the true influencers are and what they are saying – not necessarily what soundbite is reported in the news.

Racepoint Global will be tracking the debate closely and analyzing the many voices through our proprietary influencer platform, FieldFacts. We’ll be posting updates and commentary as the process unfolds. Whatever the outcome, TPP and the related issues of international trade and economic competitiveness will be shaping our economic and political discourse for the foreseeable future.

About Racepoint Global
Racepoint is defining what it means to be an intelligence-driven marketing agency. We deliver a new kind of accountability based on our ability to better understand your customers, their psychology and how they consume information. The key is our proprietary software, FieldFacts. It’s the industry’s best tool for identifying influencers and targeting them where they engage verbally, visually and emotionally. Armed with this intelligence, we give our clients PR, advertising and precision-marketing campaigns that speak to the right people at the right time. Then we dare to measure performance and report how many times high-level influencers have acted on your behalf. For more information, visit