In advance of President Obama’s summit with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe last week, Scott Parven was working round the clock to pave the way for an announcement on the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a proposed free-trade agreement that would include a dozen countries around the Pacific Rim.
“These two countries need each other,” said Parven, a lawyer with Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld who represents the Embassy of Japan. “With the ascendance of China in the region, the U.S.-Japan relationship is critical not just economically but geopolitically. There’s much at stake beyond economics in these talks. The [Trans-Pacific Partnership] has implications for the relationship generally.”
To Parven’s chagrin, Obama left Tokyo without having persuaded Japan to join the TPP. Nonetheless, Parven is hopeful that a deal is forthcoming, especially as trade negotiators exert more pressure on recalcitrant stakeholders like Japanese rice-growers and the U.S. auto industry.
“Because of the importance of the deal, and the importance of the relationship, both governments are asking their core constituencies to stretch a little bit for the benefit of all,” he said.
Parven — who has made a living explaining U.S. domestic politics to Japan, Korea, Panama, Peru, and other foreign governments — noted the irony of Obama’s zeal for the TPP. During the 2008 presidential campaign, then-Sen. Obama lambasted another free-trade deal, the North American Free Trade Agreement, which he blamed for high unemployment in the industrial Midwest.
A native of Hartford, Conn., Parven attended Vassar College and later earned a law degree from the University of Virginia. “At the time, all I really wanted to do was work for Major League Baseball and run a club,” he said. “And I might have done it had I not been turned down for an internship” with then-Commissioner Fay Vincent.
Instead, Parven returned to Hartford and was hired by Aetna, helping the insurance giant establish public-private partnerships around the world and expand its operations in Asia and Latin America. Parven’s crowning achievement was helping Aetna secure a life-insurance license in China.
Before coming to Akin Gump, he was the founder and president of Parven Pomper Strategies.
Parven, 49, is bullish on the prospect of a stronger U.S.-Japanese relationship, which he said was reinforced by Obama’s decision last year to appoint Caroline Kennedy as U.S. ambassador to Japan. He believes that the TPP has the potential to be a template for 21st-century trade agreements.
“We all want the TPP to be the gold standard,” he said, adding, “The real prize would be the inclusion of Japan.”
- 1 Hillary Clinton Will Win the Nomination, But Then What?
- 2 Bernie Sanders Is a Loud, Stubborn Socialist. Republicans Like Him Anyway.
- 3 How Politics Breaks Our Brains, and How We Can Put Them Back Together
- 4 The Pen, Phone, and Stray Voltage
- 5 Divided GOP Ponders Way Forward on Criminal Justice Reform
What We're Following See More »
Much has been made of David Brooks’s recent New York Times column, in which confesses to missing already the civility and humanity of Barack Obama, compared to who might take his place. In NewYorker.com, Jeffrey Frank reminds us how critical such attributes are to foreign policy. “It’s hard to imagine Kennedy so casually referring to the leader of Russia as a gangster or a thug. For that matter, it’s hard to imagine any president comparing the Russian leader to Hitler [as] Hillary Clinton did at a private fund-raiser. … Kennedy, who always worried that miscalculation could lead to war, paid close attention to the language of diplomacy.”
“We haven’t seen a true leftist since FDR, so many millions are coming out of the woodwork to vote for Bernie Sanders; he is the Occupy movement now come to life in the political arena.” So says Bill Maher in his Hollywood Reporter cover story (more a stream-of-consciousness riff than an essay, actually). Conservative states may never vote for a socialist in the general election, but “this stuff has never been on the table, and these voters have never been activated.” Maher saves most of his bile for Donald Trump and Sarah Palin, writing that by nominating Palin as vice president “John McCain is the one who opened the Book of the Dead and let the monsters out.” And Trump is picking up where Palin left off.