What world-changing behemoth that begins with the letter “C” presents the greatest threat to U.S. commercial and strategic interests in the Asia-Pacific region? Wrong. Even in the wake of this week’s potentially provocative tribunal ruling against Beijing’s territorial claims in the South China Sea, the greatest threat remains Congress, not China. The alarmingly likely failure of Congress to ratify the Trans-Pacific Partnership this year would do more to subvert U.S. regional and global interests than anything China is capable of doing.

The TPP is a comprehensive trade and investment agreement between the United States and 11 other Pacific-Rim nations, which reduces tariffs and other impediments to trade and investment. Its value as an agreement to create greater wealth and higher living standards by more closely integrating 12 economies accounting for 40 percent of global GDP is indisputable. But there is also an even bigger picture to consider.
The TPP is the first step in the process of reestablishing the primacy of non-discrimination and other tenets of the US-led, post-WWII liberal economic order. It is a blueprint for securing U.S. geoeconomic and geopolitical interests now and into the future by refreshing the rules of international trade law and accommodating those institutions to a multi-polar, 21st century global economy.