A bipartisan delegation from the US House of Representatives recently traveled on a weeklong three-country tour of Asia to continue negotiations on the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and to strengthen ties between countries. Representative Paul Ryan (WI-1), Chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee led the eight member delegation to Singapore, Malaysia, and Japan to further promote the US trade agenda. The congressional delegation consisted of seven Republicans and one Democrat. Representatives Devin Nunes (CA-22), Pat Tiberi (OH-12), Dave Reichert (WA-8), Charles Boustany (LA-3), Vern Buchanan (FL-16), Adrian Smith (NE-3) all represented the Republican party on the trip, while Rep. Gregory Meeks (NY-5) was the sole Democrat in the delegation. The Republican members all sit on the Ways and Means Committee, while Congressman Meeks is a member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee.
On the first leg of their trip, the members of congress met with leaders in the Singaporean Government, encouraging officials there to help achieve the goal of coming to a TPP agreement. Issues such as intellectual-property protections, increased access for American agriculture, and rules governing state-owned enterprises were also topics on the agenda. The delegation conveyed a similar message in Malaysia and discussed the positive impact a deal could have for both countries. The trip concluded in Japan where the delegation met with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and other top government officials. Finalizing the terms of the TPP has been challenging, due in large part to issues on farm products and cars between the US and Japan.
Rep. Pat Tiberi believes the trip was useful, telling Asia Matter for America, “The bipartisan Congressional Delegation trip…was productive as we move forward with Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement negotiations, allowing us to show our commitment as well as advocate for those elements that we need to see in the agreement.” He added that “together the United States and Asian nations have the opportunity to write the rules for global trade in the 21st century through a high-standard, ambitious TPP agreement. Strong ties between the United States and the other TPP countries will create growth, jobs, and stability in the Asia-Pacific region.”
Many of the congressional districts represented by these members of congress already have strong ties to Asia. In Rep. Pat Tiberi’s own twelfth district in Ohio, an estimated $80 million worth of goods and services exports go to ASEAN countries including Singapore and Malaysia, while China, Japan, and Australia are the district’s top individual export destinations. In Wisconsin’s first district, represented by Rep. Paul Ryan, 24% of all goods exports went to Asia in 2012, with China, Australia, and Japan accounting for over half of that amount. In Florida’s sixteenth district, represented by Rep. Vern Buchanan, goods exported to Asia have increased 70% from 2007-2012. Congressman Dave Reichert represents Washington’s eighth district, which sees Asian Americans making up an estimated 17% of the population. District three in Louisiana, represented by Rep. Charles Boustany, has increased its exports to Asia by over 100% in recent years, with Singapore being the number one export destination. China, Japan, and Hong Kong are the top export destinations in Asia of goods coming from California’s twenty-second district, represented by Rep. Devin Nunes. In Nebraska’s third district, represented by Rep. Adrian Smith, China remains the top Asian export destination, accounting for more than $1.2 billion worth of goods in 2012. In New York’s fifth district, represented by Rep. Gregory Meeks, over 35% of the population identifies as Asian American with just under 50% identifying as Chinese American.
For further information on congressional districts and their relationship with countries in Asia, please view and download Asia Matters for America’s 1-page summaries for each state and district, which can be accessed here.
Nate Schlabach is a Research Intern at the East-West Center in Washington and a graduate student at the Center for Justice and Peacebuilding at Eastern Mennonite University.