The biggest trade agreement in history has been out of the headlines the past week as the international community has been focused on terrorist events. But the Trans-Pacific Partnership shouldn’t be ignored. The deal establishes trade relations between the United States and eight other countries. Several Asian countries are part of the deal, but China isn’t.
GOP Presidential candidate Donald Trump hates it but so does leading Democratic Senator Elizabeth Warren. For what it’s worth, Texas Congress members were split on the vote for it.
Kristie Kenney, previously an Ambassador to Thailand, the Philippines and Ecuador and now senior advisor to the Secretary of State, spoke with the Texas Standard about the recent attack on a U.S. hotel in Mali, the aftermath of the Paris attacks and the trade deal.
There are published reports that the Islamic extremists who attacked the hotel in Mali were freeing those who were willing to sign a declaration of Muslim faith. What does that tell you about the nature of the terrorist threat?
“This is an attack on the largest international hotel in downtown Bomako, Mali – a hotel that’s frequented by journalists, aircrews, diplomats. Right now the situation’s incredibly fluid. So our embassy has advised all Americans to stay home, stay indoors. They’re trying to account for Americans that could be in the hotel, but I don’t honestly think we know enough at this stage about what’s happening inside the hotel to say whether or not people are really signing declarations, what are the motives, who precisely are the attackers.
“But what it does say is we live in a tough and difficult world. We live in a world where there are people who are willing to destroy families, homes, businesses, without real regard to human life.”
There are many in France right now who sense that there’s a reluctance, a timidity to act by Washington. French President Francois Hollande called the attacks in Paris a declaration of war. President Barack Obama called it a setback. Are we on the same page as France?
“I think we are. First of all, you’ve seen across Texas, across the United States, an outpouring of sympathy for our oldest ally, the French…. I think where we are with them is very very close. President Hollande is coming on Tuesday to Washington to meet with President Obama.
“What we’re trying to do now is two things. One, keep our citizens safe, of course. But second, get at the root causes of this. [Secretary of State John Kerry] is taking off this afternoon to go back to meet with partners across Europe, Middle East partners and the Russians to talk about how do we solve the situation. How do we get at the root causes in Syria with these ISIL terrorists?”
Should the United States be at the forefront of fighting the war against ISIS?
“I think that’s the thing that Secretary Kerry and President Obama, and frankly our partners and allies around the world are looking at. How do we best combat this?… This is a war, but it’s a war by people who don’t have a particular cause…. I think it’s not particularly easy when you’re fighting that kind of Enemy who seeks only to destroy, and with whom there is no negotiating. However, it is a fight we have to win, we don’t really have a choice.”
There is a lot of criticism about the Trans-Pacific Partnership. Did negotiating the deal in private that help the process?
“Yes. It actually does… This is a negotiation among 12 countries, you can’t possibly publicize every minute. That’s the crux of when you’re doing negotiating piecemeal, solving lots and lots of issues. The whole deal has now been published… so I think the American people now – and people around the world have a good opportunity to look at every inch of this before it’s fully vetted by Congress.”
Many of the criticisms are coming from within the Democratic party. How do you convince people in Obama’s own party that the deal is solid?
“People need to look at this very dispassionately, as a very high-standard trade agreement, with not only the issues that you and I are talking about – jobs, opportunity for American business, leveling the playing field – but a trade deal that goes beyond anything we’ve ever done before…. This is the sort of thing that will pay enormous benefits. And I think the important thing now is for everyone, and not just members of Congress – but businesses, citizens – to look thoughtfully at this. Raise their issues but look at what does this do. And I have to be honest, I think it does a great deal for us.”