The Trans-Pacific Partnership Flops
It can be a quick ride from the penthouse to the outhouse. The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) began in 2016 with considerable fanfare. The deal, which took seven years to negotiate, was the largest regional trade deal in history and a cornerstone of the Obama administration’s rebalance to Asia. But the deal came under fierce attack from both Democratic and Republican presidential candidates. The Obama administration held out hope that Congress might pass the TPP in a lame-duck session of Congress.
But Donald Trump’s election torpedoed what had likely been wishful thinking all along. The 11 countries that joined with the United States to sign the TPP are now left scrambling to figure out what to do next. Many foreign policy experts say the big winners in the wake of TPP’s demise are not American workers but China, which now gets a shot at writing the rules that will govern trade in the most dynamic region in the global economy. The even bigger danger is that trade liberalization, which the United States spearheaded and which helped drive growth around the globe, may now be in retreat, with unforeseen consequences for countries around the world.
North Korea Conducts Missile and Nuclear Tests
What do you do when you kick the can down the road and then run out of road? That’s a question the United States could soon be facing. For more than two decades, Washington has pressed Pyongyang to end its nuclear weapons program. But North Korea continues to forge ahead. In January, it conducted its fourth nuclear test since 2006, and followed that up with a series of ballistic missile tests. Then on September 9, it conducted its fifth nuclear test, producing an explosive yield of 10 kilotons, the highest recorded so far.
Contrary to Pyongyang’s claims, North Korea probably hasn’t mastered the technology needed to build a hydrogen bomb. It is also likely several years away from being able to mate a nuclear bomb with a missile capable of reaching the United States with a high probability. However, North Korea can already strike Japan and South Korea. In July, Washington and Seoul agreed to deploy the THAAD advanced missile defense system in South Korea. Washington also worked with Beijing on a tougher UN Security Council resolution that capped exports of North Korean coal, the country’s main source of hard currency. But so far Pyongyang hasn’t changed its tune. As a result, President Obama has reportedly told President-elect Trump that North Korea should be the top priority for his administration.
Britain Votes to Leave the European Union
Treat poll results with a grain of salt. That’s one of the lessons of Britain’s June referendum on leaving the EU.
Polls (and the betting markets) all showed a narrow victory for “Remain.” Instead, Britons voted 52 to 48 percent for “Leave.” The vote highlighted Britain’s fundamental divisions: Scotland and Northern Ireland voted to Remain, as did younger, more educated, and more urban voters, while England, Wales, and older, less educated, and rural voters opted for Leave. The vote ended the political career of Prime Minister David Cameron, who called for the referendum in the first place. Theresa May, a member of the Remain camp, emerged from the resulting scrum within the Conservative Party to become Britain’s new prime minister. She immediately made clear that “Brexit means Brexit.”