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Editorial: Good trade deal for America falls victim to politics

People hold signs against the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) on Wednesday at the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia. Mandel Ngan / Getty Images

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President Obama was cruising through his speech at the Democratic National Convention on Thursday, talking about “pockets of America that never recovered from factory closures,” when somebody cried out, “No more TPP!”

Obama didn’t blink, but you can bet he heard it. And you can bet Hillary Clinton, listening off stage, heard it, too, and wished the heckler would go away.

A likely casualty of this strange presidential election has been an international trade deal that would be good for America, the Trans-Pacific Partnership. In an increasingly global economy that can’t be stopped, TPP would set rules of trade between the United States and 11 Pacific Rim nations that would open doors of opportunity for our nation.

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But Donald Trump has trashed TPP, calling it a sell-out of American workers and promising to build a wall of protectionism, which is as simple-minded a plan as his call for a physical wall along the nation’s southern border. And that has given Clinton cold feet. Once, as secretary of state, she promoted TPP. She knew it made sense. Now, as a candidate for president, she has abandoned it. She knows it’s bad politics.

Even Obama, though he wants to push through TPP to burnish his legacy, said nary a word about it during his long speech. He supposedly hopes to gain Congressional approval for the trade deal this fall. But we fear he has decided he’s licked.

None of this negates the reality that TPP would be good for America, creating new jobs, and that at least a dozen Pacific nations are going to cut a trade deal soon enough anyway, with or without our nation’s participation. The United States can either take the lead in setting new terms of trade — by signing off on TPP — or sit back and watch China shape a deal that works for them, but not for us.

TPP brings together 12 countries, including Japan, that represent almost 40 percent of the global economy. It gives private American firms a chance to be competitive with state-owned enterprises. It keeps the Internet free and open. It eliminates or greatly reduces 18,000 tariffs on exported American goods. It protects American innovators by strengthening intellectual property rights. It includes worker and environmental protections.

America’s future lies not in throwing up walls against the global economy, but in making the best of it. Ninety-five percent of the world’s consumers live outside our nation’s borders. The more we sell abroad, the more jobs we create at home.

There was talk this week that Clinton would get behind TPP again after the election. That led a worried campaign manager on Wednesday to clear up any misunderstandings: “She doesn’t support TPP now, she’s not going to support TPP after the election.”

Too bad.

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