Trump Directs Advisers to Consider Return to 12-Nation Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP)

(BE2C2) — President Donald Trump on Thursday called on his advisers to weigh a return to the Trans-Pacific Partnership after scrapping the trade deal when he assumed the presidency.

Trump directed U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and economic adviser Larry Kudlow to determine whether the United States could achieve a better trade deal between the United States and the 11 other TPP countries.

“Last year, the president kept his promise to end the TPP deal negotiated by the Obama administration because it was unfair to American workers and farmers,” White House deputy press secretary Lindsay Walters said in a statement. “The president has consistently said he would be open to a substantially better deal, including in his speech in Davos earlier this year. To that end, he has asked [Ambassador] Lighthizer and Director Kudlow to take another look at whether or not a better deal could be negotiated.”

Trump signed an executive order scrapping the deal days after his inauguration in 2017, hailing the decision as a “great thing for the American worker.”

Former President Barack Obama treated trade deals as a priority during his tenure, and this particular deal would have bolstered America’s position in the Asia-Pacific region, where China is growing in influence.

But US opponents have characterized the TPP as a secretive deal that favored big business and other countries at the expense of American jobs and national sovereignty.

On the campaign trail Donald Trump called it a “horrible deal”.

The full text of the TPP agreement – which runs to 30 chapters – can be read here.

A year later while speaking at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, Trump expressed interest in renegotiating the TPP or coming to individual deals with the various countries involved in the trade partnership.

“As I have said, the United States is prepared to negotiate mutually beneficial, bilateral trade agreements with all countries,” he said. “This will include the countries in TPP, which are very important. We have agreements with several of them already. We would consider negotiating with the rest, either individually, or perhaps as a group, if it is in the interests of all.”

The 11 other TPP countries signed a new version of the deal, called the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership, in March, excluding the United States. The other countries include Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore and Vietnam.

Trump’s decision to consider a return to the trade deal comes as the United States and China trade escalating tariffs on products such as Chinese steel and electronics, and U.S. aluminum and food products.

Sen. Ben Basse, R-Neb., said it was “good news” Trump directed Kudlow and Lasse to reconsider joining the TPP.

“The best thing the United States can do to push back against Chinese cheating now is to lead the other eleven Pacific nations that believe in free trade and the rule of law,” Basse said.

TPP in a nutshell

Twelve countries that border the Pacific Ocean signed up to the TPP in February 2016, representing roughly 40% of the world’s economic output. The 12 countries involved have a collective population of about 800 million – almost double that of the European Union’s single market.

The pact aimed to deepen economic ties between these nations, slashing tariffs and fostering trade to boost growth. Members had also hoped to foster a closer relationship on economic policies and regulation. The agreement was designed so that it could eventually create a new single market, something like that of the EU. But all 12 nations needed to ratify it, before it could come into effect. Once Trump won the election, the writing was on the wall for the TPP. US participation was the major linchpin for the deal. Other 11 countries forged a smaller scale pact in its place called Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership. Those other member states are: Japan – the only country to have already ratified the pact – Malaysia, Vietnam, Singapore, Brunei, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, Mexico, Chile and Peru.

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