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Steven Clemons on the Trump Trade Shakedown

SNA (Tokyo) — Steven Clemons of The Atlantic magazine lays out his view of why the Trans-Pacific Partnership failed and how President Donald Trump will likely engage in an economic shakedown of Japan and other nations.

Transcript: TPP was probably a treaty that the United States entered into for the wrong reasons. It was not an economic treaty. It was a geostrategic treaty that was initiated because of the feeling by Asia-Pacific countries that America’s attention and presence was not felt enough here in the region. And thus it was designed from the very beginning to fill this sense of void of American presence and trying to bolster the certainty of America’s engagement. And I was intrigued as someone who has been in almost every trade debate since Reagan that you did not have American companies muscling Congress to get TPP passed. Not many. Not the kind of wave of them you had. You had admirals and generals and former defense secretaries making the strategic case for TPP. It was the military set that was buying the New York Times ads, not the economic set. So TPP became in that way the poster child back to the worker in Oklahoma, or in Missouri, or wherever they may be, that your economic interests are constantly being sold out for America’s strategic deals around the world. So you are yet again being screwed by America’s global engagement equation.

So I think [Donald Trump] wants from Japan compliance with his mercantilism. I think that America is about to become more mercantilistic than China in the way its shakes down big economic powers, big alliances, and sort of begins to make this a question, however he achieves it, of jobs and investment in the United States as something he can point to, as being one of the biggest causes that he has. He’s not going to call it this, but because of what he sees as the mercantilism of Japan in the past, and the mercantilism of China today, as more than adequate justification for the mercantilism that he is about to engage in. And he’s going to expect Japan to play along with that.

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