October 8, 2014

During the Transatlantic Interests in the Asia Pacific in 2025 conference members of the "Global Trade Agenda" panel, moderated by Paula Stern of the Stern Group and board director of the Atlantic Council, discussed the implications of future trade agreements and trade liberalization on Asia and the transatlantic partnership. Panelists focused on the rise of the middle class in Asian countries illustrating their growth from "developing" to "developed." There was a heavy focus on the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) and the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and the way these partnerships might shape European, American, and Asian geopolitical relations.

Annette Heuser, executive director of the Bertlesmann Foundation, explained how both TTIP and TPP have arisen to fix the current inefficient global trading frameworks. Yet she warned that since these two trade agreements have the potential to account for around 60% of global trade, public opinion may have an unprecedented influence on these trade agreements; noting that TTIP is the first trade agreement that has become a public issue in the EU.

For his part, Kanji Yamanouchi, minister of economic affairs from the Embassy of Japan, was excited at the potential benefits of the TPP notot only for Japan, which he admitted is heavily invested in its passage, but for the region as a whole. He discussed how the agreement would set ground rules for the future, and should expand to be a centerpiece of Asian policy. Jeffrey J. Schott, a senior fellow at the Peterson Institute for International Economics, agreed that Japan had the most to gain from the TPP but also the most to lose if it fails to pass. Discussing the competing interests in the TPP, Mr. Schott explained that while he believes the process will move forward, there is great uncertainty about the agreements various countries are willing to make.

Damien Levie, the minister counselor and head of the trade section of the delegation of the European Union to the United States, continued on this point, noting that the hearings on TPP are not yet over, as important "inter-negotiations" with smaller European countries and Turkey for example still need to be finalized. He emphasized that while the global trading rules do need to be updated, the strategic importance of TPP cannot be disconnected from the content and the United States, European Union, and their Asian allies must keep these strategic dimensions in mind when drafting the agreement.