President Donald Trump, who called the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal a “disaster,” and pulled the United States out of the agreement in his first action as president, wants back in.
Trump has directed Larry Kudlow, his new top economic adviser, and US trade representative Robert Lighthizer, to negotiate the US’s reentry into the TPP, Sens. Pat Roberts (R-KS) and Ben Sasse (R-NE) told reporters.
It’s a truly shocking reversal from Trump on one of his signature campaign promises. Pulling the United States out of the TPP was not only his first executive order as president, but also one of his few consistent policy positions. He’s called it a “disaster” and connected it to a “wave of globalization” that he says kills American manufacturing jobs.
The deal, as Vox’s Zeeshan Aleem explained, was one of the Obama administration’s major policy achievements and aimed to strengthened trade ties between 12 Pacific Rim countries — 40 percent of global GDP. But Trump relentlessly attacked the TPP and trade deals like it as job killers and boon for other countries — a position that broke with his party but was successful among Rust Belt voters.
Republicans, however, have tried to convince Trump otherwise. In February, 25 Republican senators wrote Trump a letter calling him to reverse his decision on the TPP and “re-engage.”
Trump has waffled on the TPP in recent months, and has said both that he would reconsider it if it was a “better” deal and that “there is no way to fix the TPP.” It’s not clear what a better deal would look like or how the US intends on renegotiating its way in. Only two months ago he said the TPP was “bad” for the US, reiterating his support for bilateral deals instead of multilateral deals.
Nevertheless, the move immediately received praise from congressional Republicans, who have had to suppress their longstanding support for free trade under Trump. Sasse praised Trump’s direction as “the best thing the United States can do to push back against Chinese cheating,” in a statement.
Republicans were apparently very persuasive.