MEMORANDUM: National Security and Foreign Policy Authorities on President Obama’s Trade Agenda

Building on Secretary Kerry and Secretary Carter’s op-ed this morning on the geostrategic and economic imperatives for passing President Obama’s trade agenda, below is a list of additional supportive statements from national security and foreign policy experts.


U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and U.S. Secretary of Defense Ash Carter, 6/8/2015: “Rarely does the United States have the opportunity to simultaneously improve our prosperity at home and bolster our leadership abroad. Yet Congress is debating legislation to grant trade promotion authority (TPA) to President Obama that would do just that….As the secretaries of State and Defense, we never forget that our strength abroad ultimately rests on the foundation of our vibrant, unmatched and growing domestic economy. By lowering trade barriers among countries that make up nearly 40% of the global economy, TPP would better connect the United States with economies along the Pacific Rim — from Canada to Japan, and Peru to Australia. Building trade ties is good for American workers and businesses because it will help them reach more of the 95% of the world's consumers who live outside our borders. The Peterson Institute for International Economics estimates that TPP would increase American exports — which already support 11.7 million American jobs — by almost $125 billion a year when fully implemented.”

  • U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, 5/19/2015: “…the TPP will lower tariffs on American exports. It will ensure that TPP countries treat American products the same way that we treat products from their own firms. It will cut red tape. It will reduce bureaucracy for our small businesses and family farms. And it will help our companies participate more directly in new global supply chains that are creating unprecedented opportunities all around the world. When you add it all up, the economic case for trade promotion authority and for TPP is not even a close call in my judgment – it’s overwhelming. And as Secretary of State, let me put this in a perspective of global challenges….And we’ve got to ensure that our workers – farmers, ranchers, businesses – receive equitable treatment in that marketplace. We can’t do that, folks, by sitting on the sidelines. You can’t be on the side of the road while other countries are writing the rules of the road for the rest of the world’s trade. We’ve got to be engaged. We’ve got to lead. And by the way, most Americans inherently understand that.”
  • U.S. Secretary of Defense Ash Carter, 4/6/2015: “As Secretary of Defense, I never forget that our military strength ultimately rests on the foundation of our vibrant, unmatched, and growing economy. TPP is so important because of its enormous promise for jobs and growth across our nation's economy. It is expected to increase U.S. exports by $125 billion in the next decade, supporting high quality jobs….But TPP also makes strong strategic sense, and it is probably one of the most important parts of the rebalance, and that's why it has won such bipartisan support. In fact, you may not expect to hear this from a Secretary of Defense, but in terms of our rebalance in the broadest sense, passing TPP is as important to me as another aircraft carrier. It would deepen our alliances and partnerships abroad and underscore our lasting commitment to the Asia-Pacific. And it would help us promote a global order that reflects both our interests and our values.”



Former Security of State and National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice, 6/5/2015: “Trade-promotion authority is a critical tool in the conduct of U.S. diplomacy. It does not strip Congress of a role in negotiating trade agreements. It explicitly allows Congress to outline principles that must be heeded during negotiations and to exercise its constitutional duties by voting on negotiated agreements. Congress has used that authority to shape the direction of trade agreements over decades — and without it those agreements would not have been possible….trade is an essential element of a strategy that long ago placed faith in the proposition that the future would belong to free peoples and free markets. That is why I urge Congress to renew trade-promotion authority. The United States cannot afford to be sidelined, ceding the ground to those who do not share our values and our interests. Future generations would pay dearly for that choice.”

Former U.S. Undersecretary of Defense for Policy Michele Flournoy and Richard Fontaine, Center for a New American Security, 5/26/2015: “The bipartisan bill, now making its way through Congress, to grant the president trade-promotion authority is critical to unlocking new and important trade deals. Lawmakers should pass the bill and, upon its completion, the Trans-Pacific Partnership free-trade agreement, which would produce unambiguous economic and strategic gains for the U.S. Success would also pave the way toward an eventual Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership trade agreement with the European Union.”

Letter from Former Secretaries of Defense and Military Officers, 5/7/2015: “We write to express our strongest possible support for the enactment of Trade Promotion Authority legislation, which is critical to the successful conclusion of two vital trade agreements: the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) and the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP). While the economic benefits of both these agreements would be substantial, as former Secretaries of Defense and military leaders we believe there is an equally compelling strategic rationale for TPP and TTIP….The successful conclusion of TPP and TTIP would also draw in other nations and encourage them to undertake political and economic reforms. The result will be deeper regional economic integration, increased political cooperation, and ultimately greater stability in the two regions of the world that will have the greatest long-term impact on U.S. prosperity and security.”

  • Harold Brown, Former Secretary of Defense
  • William S. Cohen, Former Secretary of Defense
  • Robert M. Gates, Former Secretary of Defense
  • Chuck Hagel, Former Secretary of Defense
  • Leon E. Panetta, Former Secretary of Defense
  • William J. Perry, Former Secretary of Defense
  • Donald H. Rumsfeld, Former Secretary of Defense
  • Admiral Dennis C. Blair, USN (Ret.)
  • General James E. Cartwright, USMC (Ret.)
  • Admiral Edmund P. Giambastiani, Jr., USN (Ret.)
  • General James Mattis, USMC (Ret.)
  • General David H. Petraeus, USA (Ret.)
  • General Colin Powell, USA (Ret.)
  • Admiral Gary Roughead, USN (Ret.)
  • General Hugh Shelton, USA (Ret.)
  • Admiral James Stavridis, USN (Ret.)
  • Admiral Robert F. Willard, USN (Ret.)

General James L. Jones (Ret.), Former National Security Adviser and Commandant of the U.S. Marine Corps, 4/18/2015: “Promoting robust international trade contributes to national prosperity--a simple, empirically based fact of modern economic life. A strong economy won't solve all our problems, foreign or domestic, but without it we can solve very few of them. Among the enduring lessons of the past century is that a prosperous America is far better able to protect the country's values and advance its interests in a dangerous world….As always, American leadership remains the indispensable element. That leadership should begin with Congress granting President Obama trade promotion authority. For four decades, that's how Congress has worked with every President--Republican and Democrat alike--to help America speak with a single voice and strike deals that advance our nation's economic and strategic interests. The words of General Eisenhower ring as true today as when he first uttered them: ‘If we fail in our trade policy, we may fail in all. Our domestic employment, our standard of living, our security, and the solidarity of the free world--all are involved.’”

Former Representative Jane Harman (D-CA), President and CEO of the Woodrow Wilson Center for International Scholars, 3/6/2015: “And so I think TPA is the crucial element to enabling us to get to the extent we have the – major influence to getting us to conclude these deals….I think TPA is crucial for U.S. influence in the world. It’s an economic issue and it’s a security issue. And I think that TAA, as an added tool, helps on its own merits, but also is a way to help get TPA passed by Congress….I think it would be an enormous accomplishment for both parties. I don’t see this as an Obama win; I see this as an American win. And just unfortunately almost never do we ever see things in those terms.”

Former Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs Nicholas Burns, Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government, 1/1/2015: “The White House is signaling Obama’s desire to work with Republicans to conclude major free trade deals — the Trans Pacific Partnership in Asia and Trans Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership with the European Union. Both would boost US economic growth and reclaim our global leadership on trade.”

Former Representative Lee Hamilton (D-IN), Former Co-Chairman of the Iraq Study Group, 11/26/2014: “Congress faces plenty of issues that need addressing, which means that skillful legislators who want to show progress have an extensive menu from which to choose. Trade, health care, terrorism, responsible budgeting, rules on greenhouse gas emissions... All of these are amenable to incremental progress….On the other hand, Congress can probably manage to avoid a government shutdown, and it faces decent prospects of expanding and protecting our energy boom, promoting fast-track trade authority, and funding key infrastructure needs. Defense spending will not be further reduced.”

Admiral James Stavridis (Ret.), 11/19/2014: “Flying under the international radar is one of the most potentially important agreements ever negotiated across the broad Atlantic: the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), also known as the Transatlantic Free Trade Agreement (TAFTA). It is a big basket of agreed-upon rules and regulations that would make the United States and much of Europe a free trade zone, perhaps increasing overall trade by as much as 50 percent, according to the European Commission and the White House. Guess what? Putin hates it.…Indeed, a negotiated and eventually ratified TTIP would be a powerful signal to Putin’s Russia that Europe and the United States stand together in all dimensions — values, politics, security, and trade. And if Putin hates it, TTIP probably makes sense.”



Patrick Cronin, Center for a New American Security, 5/12/2015: “Both Trade Promotion Authority (TPA) and the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) are pressing opportunities for America to tighten its ties to this century's locus of growth.  President Obama is on the right side of history….If and when both TPA and TPP are passed by Congress, the dynamic Asia-Pacific region will take note of America's continuing global influence; until then, however, they will persist with a general narrative of a declining United States.”

Martin Indyk, Brookings Institution (Twitter), 4/17/2015: “Now that's of strategic consequence: Deal Reached on Fast-Track Authority for Obama on Trade Accord

President of the Council on Foreign Relations Richard Haass (Twitter), 4/16/2015: “welcome step on #TPP, but much remains. hard to exaggerate strategic stakes; plus passage would add to US eco growth …”

Joshua Meltzer, Brookings Institution, 4/9/2015: “…As noted, the TPP is a central part of the U.S. rebalancing towards Asia. In this way, the TPP will underpin U.S. alliances with TPP parties such as Japan and Australia and provide opportunities for the U.S. to deepen its relationship with emerging strategic partners such as Vietnam. Thus, the TPP is an important trade agreement that will produce economic and broader strategic gains for the U.S. The TPP negotiations can be concluded this year but achieving this will require Congress to pass TPA. It is time for Congress to act.” 

Former Deputy Treasury Secretary Roger Altman and President of the Council on Foreign Relations Richard Haass, 4/3/2015: “The coming vote [on TPA] is the equivalent to a vote on the TPP itself. Should it die, the adverse impact on American national security would be great…. The real choice is between supporting a trade accord that would help most Americans and serve the country’s strategic aims, and defeating it, which would leave the country poorer and the world less stable.”

Mireya Solís, Brookings Institution, 3/15/2015: “Passing TPP would be a geopolitical and economic boon for America. These benefits need not and will not come at the expense of workers or the regulatory sovereignty of countries. On the contrary, under deep FTAs, countries retain their right to regulate. Rather, the aim of the agreement is to increase international competitiveness in order to create better quality jobs.  If TPP nonetheless fails, the next question will naturally be who is to blame? Congress should be mindful that by failing to deliver on TPA, it risks becoming the weak link in the U.S.-led endeavor to craft a liberal economic order.”

Former U.S. Undersecretary of Defense for Policy Michele Flournoy and Ely Ratner, Center for a New American Security, 3/8/2015: “This is the time for advocates on both sides to move beyond the usual economic arguments and consider the extraordinary geopolitical stakes involved. Not every trade agreement puts America’s prestige, influence and leadership on the line, but the TPP does.”

Matthew Goodman, Center for Strategic and International Studies and Ely Ratner, Center for a New American Security, 11/23/2014: “First, economics is king in Asia and will have to feature front and center in U.S. policy in the years to come. Although the region’s military competitions and territorial disputes are all too real, the fact remains that leadership and influence will flow from the wallet, not the gun. For that reason, the Obama administration is right to be striving hard to conclude negotiations on the Trans-Pacific Partnership, an agreement among 12 countries that would cement high standards in regional trade. To do so, the president will have to work closely with the new Republican Congress to pass Trade Promotion Authority.”

President of the Council on Foreign Relations Richard Haass, 11/21/2014: “I believe that our actions have not kept pace with our language. So we need to do more. We do need to increase our military presence; particularly air and naval forces. The most important thing, though, is we need to increase the frequency and the depth of our consultations with various countries. And then, it’s essential that we pass TPP [Trans-Pacific Strategic Economic Partnership]. We need a diplomatic dimension, a military dimension and an economic dimension. It’s like a stool, with three legs. For stability, we need all three legs.”

Elizabeth Economy, Council on Foreign Relations, 11/14/2014: “Look I think, hopefully what we're going to see out of this Republican Congress is the desire again to promote US power, to promote US trade. And President Obama has on the docket this Trans-Pacific Partnership. It is the essence of our economic engagement with Asia. The most dynamic, economic region of the world. And if we can get this, you know, passed, if we can make this come to fruition, it's really going to be a milestone for the US economy and for the US influence in the region.”

Elbridge Colby, Fellow, and Richard Fontaine, President, Center for a New American Security, 11/13/2014: “First, Congress should provide the president with “fast-track” Trade Promotion Authority, which is almost certainly required to conclude a credible Trans-Pacific Partnership free-trade accord. Senate Democrats blocked a vote on fast-track due to the unpopularity of trade within their caucus. By advancing free trade, Republicans can remain true to their long reputation as the party of open commerce while helping to deliver an economic boost to the nation. In passing an eventual trans-Pacific trade agreement, Congress would also strengthen America’s strategic position in the Asia-Pacific, where trade and foreign policy are particularly intertwined.”

Daniel Drezner, Brookings Institution, 11/12/2014: “Best APEC summit ever…Those latter two agreements would be big deals in their own right. Any deal that reduces military tensions in the region is a good one, and the accord on the WTO’s Information Technology Agreement converts a slow-moving plurilateral arrangement into something that will have more widespread coverage.”

Former Director of National Intelligence Admiral Denis Blair (Ret.), 11/6/2014: “The Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement would bring broad economic benefits for a vast majority of citizens in the 12 countries that would be signatories to the deal — including Australia, Singapore, Malaysia, Mexico and Vietnam, among others. The T.P.P. would set high standards for regulatory systems, rules on intellectual property and fair competition — standards that China should aspire to but cannot currently meet. So as well as promoting its alternative plan to shape the region’s economic future by means of an Asia-Pacific free trade area with considerably lower standards, Beijing is betting that the small number of vocal opponents of the T.P.P. in America and Japan will derail the agreement. For the T.P.P. parties, failure to conclude an agreement would have untold costs, as countries like China that pursue mercantilist, government-directed economic policies would be emboldened to set the terms of trade in the Asia-Pacific region.”

Kim R. Holmes, Former Assistant Secretary of State for International Organization Affairs and William Inboden, University of Texas, 10/17/2014: “We need to recapture the centrality of international economic policy to our global strategy. Specifically, this will mean ensuring that the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) advance free markets and liberalize trade and that Congress passes Trade Promotion Authority (‘Fast Track’).” 

Lanhee Chen, Hoover Institution, 1/31/2014: “There are few policy changes that could be better for job creation and economic growth, both in the short and long term, than an aggressive effort to open markets abroad. And it was one of the very few policy prescriptions unveiled in Obama’s speech that actually has bipartisan support. Legislation to restore trade promotion authority, which has been supported by both Republican and Democratic presidents, would require Congress to take an up-or-down vote on any trade deal negotiated by the president. That means no amendments, no filibusters and no exceedingly long debates. The last TPA expired back in 2007; its renewal is crucial to advancing a free-trade agenda.”

Mireya Solis, Brookings Institution, 1/23/2014: “Sealing these deals (the Trans-Pacific Partnership and Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership trade agreements) would enable the United States to tap into off-budget sources of growth, improve the international competitiveness of the U.S. economy, craft cutting-edge rules on trade and investment, secure America’s role in the dynamic Asian region and consolidate the trans-Atlantic partnership. To achieve these goals, we recommended that you work with Congress to secure renewal of trade promotion authority, engage in a public awareness campaign to increase understanding of the benefits of free trade, and aim to strike a balance between ambition and flexibility in the trade talks.”



Thomas Friedman, New York Times, 4/29/2015: “I strongly support President Obama’s efforts to conclude big, new trade-opening agreements with our Pacific allies, including Japan and Singapore, and with the whole European Union. But I don’t support them just for economic reasons…. As Obama told his liberal critics Friday: If we abandon this effort to expand trade on our terms, ‘China, the 800-pound gorilla in Asia will create its own set of rules,’ signing bilateral trade agreements one by one across Asia ‘that advantage Chinese companies and Chinese workers and ... reduce our access ... in the fastest-growing, most dynamic economic part of the world.’  But if we get the Pacific trade deal done, ‘China is going to have to adapt to this set of trade rules that we’ve established.’ If we fail to do that, he added, 20 years from now we’ll ‘look back and regret it.’ That’s the only thing he got wrong. We will regret it much sooner.”  

Bret Stephens, Wall Street Journal, 4/18/2015: “This is a hit to Senators Orrin Hatch, Republican, and Ron Wyden, Democrat, along with Paul Ryan in Congress, for putting together a deal which will give the president fast-track authority to negotiate the Trans-Pacific Partnership Trade Agreement. It is one of the largest trade agreements in history. It would bind the United States and 12 countries in the Pacific region to a trade pact, which would involve 40 percent of the world's trade. It's a win for that side of the Pacific but it's mostly a win for our side of the Pacific, for our workers, for our manufacturing sectors, for our economy. We should pass this. It's the one good thing Obama may do in his presidency.”

David Ignatius, Washington Post, 2/4/2015: “AS THE Obama administration and a ­Republican-majority Congress work toward eventual approval of the ­Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement between the United States and 11 Pacific Rim nations, opponents of the proposed pact are issuing increasingly shrill warnings. The latest is that the deal will endanger not only U.S. jobs but also U.S. health care — and health care around the world. According to the critics, U.S. efforts to protect the pharmaceutical industry’s ­intellectual-property rights and commercial interests could result in higher drug prices and lower access — not only along the Pacific Rim but also in the United States. The TPP means ‘worse health and unnecessary deaths,’ Joseph Stiglitz, a Nobel laureate in economics, warns. Well, don’t believe the hype.”

Fareed Zakari, CNN and Time Magazine, 11/06/2014: “The good news is that the Republican victory might make the TPP more likely. Trade is one of the few issues on which the GOP agrees with the president. Obama’s problems are largely with his own party, which has adopted a defeatist and protectionist outlook, abandoning the tradition of Franklin Roosevelt and John Kennedy for that of Pat Buchanan.”

Fareed Zakaria, CNN and Time Magazine, 2/20/2014: “This is not a theoretical debate; a great game is afoot in Asia. The U.S. wants to strengthen the forces of openness, rules and free trade by concluding an ambitious trade agreement with many Asian countries, the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). China, on the other hand, is proposing the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership, a more mercantilist deal for Asian countries. It asks very little of these countries in terms of commitment to real market-based reforms or to environmental and labor standards. It offers them greater access to China as a gift from Beijing. This might advance China’s narrow interests, but it does little for an open, rule-based regional order.”

David Ignatius, Washington Post, 4/3/2014: “A Pacific agreement is important because it would add momentum for truly global trade standards and market access. The TPP countries account for about 40 percent of the world’s gross domestic product and 40 percent of U.S. exports. According to the trade representative’s office, an agreement could add $223 billion to global income by 2025 and boost U.S. exports by $124 billion. That means jobs, here and abroad…What’s dawning on people is that there’s a tipping point in global trade. If the United States can complete the Pacific and Atlantic partnerships, it will have framed standards and market access for about two-thirds of the global economy. At that point, it becomes economic suicide for China, Brazil and India to remain outside.”