Trans-Pacific Partnership Talks a Test For Dealing With China: Part One

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Timothy Brightbill speaks with MetalMiner’s Taras Berezowsky on how the Trans-Pacific Partnership negotiations, held in Chicago until Sept. 15, may affect the US’ trade relationship with several Asian nations — including China — when a final pact is signed.

An international negotiations process between trade representatives from nine governments, including the United States, Australia and Malaysia, still ongoing here in Chicago, has wide-ranging implications for steel and other manufacturing industries and it doesn’t directly involve China or the WTO.

The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), composed of the US and eight other nations in Asia and South America, is currently holding its eighth round of negotiations, the ultimate result of which will be a newly signed free trade deal no earlier than November. Last Saturday, several non-governmental entities, businesses and their representatives were given the opportunity to present their cases. While China is not a member of the TPP, their behavior looms large in the background of these talks.

Many of you may think: how is the US steel industry involved in these trade talks? Aren’t they rather protectionist?

Well, steel mills and other manufacturers want to make sure that the US government understands and accepts their positions before signing any more trade deals (which US labor groups have protested last week in Chicago, fearful of a “New NAFTA”). These positions, according to Tim Brightbill, partner at Wiley Rein LLP in Washington, D.C. include demanding fewer export restrictions and urging the US government to put “laws and mechanisms in place” to deal with the behavior of foreign state-owned enterprises.

MetalMiner had the chance to catch up with Brightbill, who presented at the TPP negotiations in Chicago on behalf of Nucor. However, he said, other steel mills and organizations such as the American Scrap Coalition have a vested interest in the outcome, and Wiley Rein has represented entire coalitions such as the rebar and long products industries specifically — in trade cases before.

Brightbill told MetalMiner that the TPP is envisioned as the new gold standard for trade negotiations, and anything that’s done will set a standard that hopefully will spread through all other trade agreements the US has. “There will be a disciplining effect on China, he said.

Check in for Part Two tomorrow, which details the relationship between the current state of US manufacturing, China, and state-owned enterprises. Disclaimer: Nucor is a sponsor of MetalMiner.

–Taras Berezowsky

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