Back in January, at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, Trump first toyed with the idea of rejoining the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) Trade Deal. He said the US would be open to rejoining, “TPP if it were a substantially better deal.”
This pronouncement caused concern among certain supporters when it was made – and it seems the fears were well founded. During the 2016 campaign, Trump very loudly promised to reject TPP, calling it, “a rape of our country.” Indeed, on just his 3ed day in office, he removed the US from the TPP, as promised.
“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,” said Lindsay Walters, the White House spokesperson. “The President has consistently said he would be open to a substantially better deal, including in his speech in Davos earlier this year.”
Walters added that President Trump had instructed the Director of the National Economic Council, Larry Kudlow, and the U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer “to take another look at whether or not a better deal could be negotiated.”
In a meeting with White House officials, lawmakers and senators of key farming states, President Trump floated the idea of re-entering the Pacific trade agreement. However, a senior official said that the President has not committed or confirmed anything yet, as “it’s very early in the process”.
Senator Deb Fischer (R-Neb.) who was present in the meeting shared that the impression she got was that the President was more inclined on reaching individual agreements with the TPP countries, rather than entering a trade pact.
“I did not jump to the conclusion, as some of my colleagues did, that it was like: ‘Oh we’re getting back into TPP,’” said Fischer. “Maybe I’ll be proven wrong on this, but I don’t see this big rush back into TPP.”
On Thursday, after the White House meeting, Senator John Thune of South Dakota, said that “If you want to send a message to China, the best way to do that is to start doing business with their competitors. So he was very open to it.”
Entering into a trade agreement with the Pacific countries is being deemed as a threat to China, with whom the U.S. is currently in a trade war with.
“We should be leading TPP,” stated Senator Ben Sasse (R-Neb.) who was also present at the meeting. “China is a bunch of cheaters and the best way to push back on their cheating would be to be leading all these other rule-of-law nations in the Pacific that would rather be aligned with the U.S. than with China.”
Soon after the meeting at the White House, President Trump tweeted some clarification about his TPP decision. “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!”