Many have assumed that the TPP absent American participation is no longer worthwhile. From the perspective of the remaining parties in the agreement, this is a flawed assessment. A careful review of the TPP shows that the benefits of the TPP remain—whether or not the United States ever joins the deal. Why? Because the United States is already a relatively open market, most of the other 11 TPP parties already have decent access to the American market whether or not the TPP includes the United States. There is not a great deal of need for new preferential access to the US market, outside of a few sectors. The US therefore is already in alignment with most of the TPP rules—whether or not it signs the agreement—in areas like standards or e-commerce. As a result, for most firms trying to access American markets from TPP member countries, whether the United States in included or not in the deal is not especially critical. Thus, from the point of view of the TPP11, moving ahead with the agreement makes a great deal of sense. Little is actually lost. It will be deeply damaging to American companies and US interests, but this is, frankly, America’s problem.
At least some of incoming Trump team—to repeat again—believe the US is already engaged in a trade war. They want manufacturing to take place inside the United States and will do whatever they think it takes to make it so. Many of the key players seem to be stuck in the 1980s and are pulling out the playbook from that era when the United States could dictate terms and insist on mechanisms like voluntary export restraints. The retaliation this time around will be different. The coming year is going to be very challenging for firms. Trump is not going to change his mind on trade. He really means business.