The fear that a state-of-the-art US model will be replaced by an inferior Chinese system of rules looks overdone. Beijing does not have an extensive rival set of laws to propagate. Its favoured trade pact, the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership, is known to negotiators as “the stapler”. It does little more than gather together existing bilateral and regional agreements and has little content beyond cuts in goods tariffs.
The “China model” is not a new and disturbing diversion from a move towards deeper economic integration: it is essentially the status quo. If TPP does fail, the US will have fumbled a chance to liberalise some trade in services and restrain state-owned enterprises from distorting markets. But that is a missed opportunity, not a catastrophe.