- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 6, 2021

The Biden administration must reengage in the Asia-Pacific region by striking multilateral trade deals, a bipartisan group of lawmakers said Thursday, arguing U.S. withdrawal from the Trans-Pacific Partnership in January 2017 was “misguided” and emboldened China.

Sen. Tom Carper, Delaware Democrat, and Sen. John Cornyn, Texas Republican, made the plea in a letter to U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai.

“Our current trade policy in the Asia-Pacific region is in need of a strategic direction that includes robust engagement with our allies in the region, similar to what was envisioned by the 12-country Trans-Pacific Partnership. We believe that withdrawing from this trade agreement was a missed opportunity to strengthen U.S. leadership in the global economy and reinforce our commitment to a rules-based system for international trade,” they wrote.

The U.S. signed the TPP in 2016 under President Obama. However, President Trump withdrew from the deal upon taking office, saying it was too complex and he wanted to strike bilateral deals that give leverage to U.S. workers.

From the left, Sen. Bernard Sanders, Vermont independent and progressive champion, applauded the withdrawal, saying the deal was part of a “race to the bottom” that hurt American workers’ wages.

The remaining nations formed a new pact without the U.S., but a bipartisan group wants President Biden to reengage.

Mr. Carper, Mr. Cornyn and Reps. Stephanie Murphy, Florida Democrat, and Adam Kinzinger, Illinois Republican, said withdrawing from TPP diminished American influence at a critical time.

“We have consistently expressed the view that withdrawal from the TPP was misguided and short-sighted. Unfortunately, it has only served to weaken the United States, empower China, put American workers and businesses at a competitive disadvantage and cede leadership in arguably the most strategically vital and economically dynamic region of the world,” they told Ms. Tai.

The lawmakers said the U.S.-Mexico-Canada trade deal signed with bipartisan support under Mr. Trump served as a model for new ways to “write the rules of international trade” with multiple allies.

“As you know, the United States and China are competing across virtually every functional and geographic domain,” they told Ms. Tai. “With that said, the Asia-Pacific region is also home to some of America’s closest allies and partners, many of which are some of the fastest-growing markets in the world. There is no doubt that any successful effort to strengthen our domestic economy, and ensure that American companies can compete on a level playing field with their Chinese counterparts, will require the United States to exercise leadership in the Asia-Pacific region and fortify our relationships in the region.”

• Tom Howell Jr. can be reached at thowell@washingtontimes.com.

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