Bullish on Pacific Trade

Parven: Represents Embassy of Japan.
National Journal
Christopher Snow Hopkins
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Christopher Snow Hopkins
April 28, 2014, 8 a.m.

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.”

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