In what could develop into a major reversal of trade policy, President Trump has instructed top economic advisers to evaluate whether the U.S. should rejoin the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade alliance.
News of the development came during a White House meeting with governors and members of Congress from farm states, some of whom had expressed reservations over White House tariffs and increased trade friction with China.
According to Sen. Pat Roberts (R-Kan.), Trump authorized White House economic adviser Lawrence Kudlow and U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer to look into the possibility of reuniting with the 11-nation economic bloc.
“Go, get it done,” Trump reportedly told Lighthizer and Kudlow, according to Roberts and Sen. Ben Sasse (R-Neb.). Trump was also said to have ordered the reconsideration of the pact “on our terms” according to attendees at the meeting.
Shortly after the meeting broke, Trump explained U.S. reentry into TPP would come only if terms of the agreement were renegotiated more favorably to the U.S.
Would only join TPP if the deal were substantially better than the deal offered to Pres. Obama. We already have BILATERAL deals with six of the eleven nations in TPP, and are working to make a deal with the biggest of those nations, Japan, who has hit us hard on trade for years!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 13, 2018
Despite Mr. Trump’s apparent surprise announcement, representatives of TPP states reacted with caution, expressed a willingness to welcome the U.S. back, but expressed concern over Trump’s conditions for new terms.
“If the United States, it turns out, do genuinely wish to rejoin, that triggers a whole new process. There would be another process and so, at this stage we are talking hypotheticals,” New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern told reporters in Auckland.
“We welcome the U.S. coming back to the table but I don’t see any wholesale appetite for any material re-negotiation of the TPP-11,” Australia Trade Minister Steven Ciobo said Friday.
Despite a will among TPP members to welcome the U.S. back into the pact, American labor leaders remain adamantly opposed to reviving U.S. participation.
In a response on Twitter, AFL-CIO president Richard Trumka, head of the largest organized labor union in the U.S., said TPP “should remain dead.”
— Richard L. Trumka (@RichardTrumka) April 12, 2018
Mr. Trump’s shift toward rejoining the trade pact comes as a potential trade war looms with China over tariffs the White House imposed on steel and aluminum in early April.
Originally drafted in 2010 as a counterweight against Chinese economic expansion in the region, the TPP agreement was slated to include 12 nations and was the lynchpin of Obama-era trade policy.
In one of his first major actions as president, Mr. Trump pulled the U.S. from the trade agreement in January 2017, citing the pact’s harmful effects on American workers.
Following the U.S. exit from the agreement, 11 remaining nations, Singapore, Brunei, Vietnam, Chile, Australia, Peru, New Zealand, Mexico, Malaysia, Canada and Japan reworked the deal.
[Daily Caller] [Reuters] [Bloomberg] [Image courtesy motley.ie via The Online Citizen]