Populism and Trade: The 2016 US Presidential Election and the Death of the Trans-Pacific Partnership
In 2015, it seemed all but certain that President Obama would succeed in ratifying the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) with Senate approval during his last year of office. The TPP, the largest regional trade accord in history, would have set new terms for trade and business investment between the United States and 11 other Pacific Rim nations. However, despite record-breaking corporate spending and broad support for the TPP among democrats and republicans, the TPP encountered domestic challenges when the 2016 US presidential campaign featured two popular, anti-trade candidates. The political climate abruptly shifted and the TPP was never introduced to Congress for ratification leading to a surprising failure for President Obama’s signature trade initiative. This chapter examines the surprising failure of the TPP and the rise of economic populism—anti-trade rhetoric that specifically targeted the free trade agreement during the 2016 presidential campaign. The chapter examines the rise of populism through the 2016 presidential candidate narratives of Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump to examine how an anti-TPP story came to signal a commitment to the working class and American identity against a rising China.
KeywordsPopulism Trans-Pacific partnership Trade policy US foreign economic policy
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