The massive international trade deal known at the Trans-Pacific Partnership could cost Warren countians their jobs or it could raise local workers to a brighter, more secure future. It all depends on how well we prepare.
That was one of the prospects presented by two international trade attorneys speaking at The Rotary Club of McMinnville and in a public radio WCPI 91.3 interview. Fortunately for hometown individuals and families, education and skill training needed to meet global competition is already available.
Thad McBride, a partner at Bass, Berry & Sims PLC, and Samar Ali, of counsel with that law firm, addressed the Noon Rotary Club last Thursday. The voluminous, highly detailed Trans-Pacific Partnership was negotiated over the last seven years among the 12 likely signatories, including the United States, Canada, Mexico, Chile, Peru and several East Asian countries like Japan and Vietnam. With its poor reputation for fidelity in previous trade agreements, China was not invited to TPP talks.
While many people can find much to dislike or distrust about the proposed TPP, our failure to join the project could have deep, long-lasting impacts on the United States, Ali and McBride emphasized in addressing Rotarians.
“Important trading partners and important strategic partners could go into China’s orbit,” McBride said. While America presses its advantage as a powerful leader in the deal, we may be “keeping Japan and others from falling into China’s lap.”
“China is a real concern,” Ali, a native of Waverly, Tenn., and former international trade advisor in the Obama Administration, said. “We’ve got to be strategic.”
Tennessee lost a new Audi automobile plant to Mexico, said Ali, who worked with Gov. Bill Haslam’s international trade team. Our southern neighbor landed the plant, with its 1,000-2,000 jobs, because Mexico had existing trade agreements with other countries that gave its products substantial import-cost advantages, she explained.
“If we start letting our competitors get in the game … we will not have a seat at the table in shaping global trade in the 21st Century,” she said.
World-class training programs like Mechatronics, offered at Motlow in McMinnville and Warren County High School, prepare the local workforce for the jobs of the international present and future.
The next step in manufacturing technology — Advanced Robotics Training — is being aggressively pursued, with applications pending for federal grants needed to purchase sophisticated, market-oriented equipment.
The radio program airs on 91.3 FM this Wednesday at 5:05 a.m., Thursday at 1 p.m., and Friday at 1:05 a.m.