Donald Trump pulled out of the Trans-Pacific Partnership four days after taking office, calling it “job-killing,” “a terrible deal,” “bad for American workers” and a “fraud.”Now he wants back in.Trump tweeted Thursday he would reenter TPP if the terms were “substantially better” than those offered to his predecessor Barack Obama.The unexpected reversal comes amid a growing trade dispute with China, with both sides threatening to impose high tariffs on imported good — a tactic that has left Trump isolated on the international stage.
READ: Trump is finally getting his trade warThe president noted that the U.S. already had bilateral trade deals in place with six of the 11 other nations, and it was “working to make a deal with the biggest of those nations, Japan.”Earlier Thursday, Trump informed senators he had directed Robert Lighthizer, a trade representative, and White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow to re-open TPP negotiations.
The move received a lukewarm reception from trade pact members:
- Japan: Finance Minister Taro Aso tacitly welcomed the move, saying the facts needed to be verified. Trump “is a person who could change temperamentally, so he may say something different the next day,” he said.
- Australia: Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull was equally reticent to embrace the news, saying it would be “great” to have the U.S. back in, but “we’re certainly not counting on it.”
- New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Arden warned that because the 11 other countries have made significant progress since the U.S. withdrawal, it was not a foregone conclusion that Washington would not be able to rejoin. “If the United States, it turns out, does genuinely wish to rejoin, that triggers a whole new process,” she told reporters in Auckland, Friday. “There would be another process and so, at this stage, we are talking hypotheticals.”
Trump repeatedly attacked the trade deal during the 2016 campaign, claiming it was bad for U.S. manufacturing and a “potential disaster for our country.”Though Trump played up the fact he had fulfilled a campaign promise by withdrawing, it was in effect just a symbolic move, given Obama failed to get the deal ratified by a divided Congress.
Trump’s move to impose tariffs on Chinese imports have failed to gain international support, while the U.S. farm lobby has warned that China’s threat to impose reciprocal taxes on U.S. products would massively impact agricultural exports.
Cover image: Donald Trump enters the Rose Garden for an event April 12, 2018 at the White House in Washington, DC. (Alex Wong/Getty Images)