Barack Obama assumed office promising to restore some of the U.S. foreign policy credibility notoriously squandered by his predecessor. But if Congress doesn’t ratify the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement before Christmas, the president will leave office with American commercial and strategic positions weakened in the Asia-Pacific and U.S. credibility further diminished globally. The specter of that outcome should be keeping the president awake at night.
The TPP is a comprehensive trade agreement between the United States and 11 other Pacific-Rim nations not called China. It is the economic linchpin of the administration’s “strategic pivot” to Asia, which in 2009 heralded U.S. intentions to extricate itself from the messes in Iraq and Afghanistan and to reassert its interests in the world’s fastest-growing region.

One would assume TPP ratification an obvious policy priority in Washington, but the lack of enthusiasm for considering the deal in Congress is exceeded only by the president’s unwillingness to break a sweat pitching its merits.
Superficially, one could blame election-year politics and a metastasizing popular antipathy toward trade agreements for the situation, but the original sin is the president’s lackluster effort to sell the TPP to his trade-skeptical party and the American public.