President Trump Takes Second Look at TPP

Hugh Fox
April 13, 2018

His most hawkish trade advisers, who now dominate his cabinet after high-level departures, have expressed a strong preference for negotiating bilateral agreements, which they say play to USA advantages.

The move would be a reversal for Mr. Trump, who signed an executive order in January 2017 shortly after taking office to signify the US exit from the 12-country Asia Pacific free trade deal.

A week after escalating trade tensions with his threat to impose tariffs on an additional $100 billion in Chinese products, Trump said Thursday the USA and China ultimately may end up levying no new tariffs on each other.

Ben Sasse, R-Nebraska, said in a statement after the meeting, "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".

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Trump also told lawmakers that he thinks a conversation he had with China's President Xi Jinping has had an impact on US beef exports to China, where American exporters are now selling "a lot" of beef.

"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", the White House said in a statement.

Japan, the biggest economy in the current version of the TPP, welcomed Trump's comments, with Foreign Minister Taro Kono saying the nation would be "really be very happy if the USA returned".

Critics said exiting the agreement had been a strategic gift to China, which stood to strengthen its trade dominance in the region as the United States retreated. He added, though, that it would be hard to renegotiate only parts of the TPP, describing the agreement as delicate. "Undoubtedly, a TPP that includes the USA would be stronger and more formidable than one that does not".

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The move, which would signal a significant policy change for Trump, was meant to assuage numerous president's critics who stand to be hurt by the trade dispute with China, including many farm states that supported his election. He said at the time that he would pursue individual deals with the other countries. Kudlow said last week the US may soon release a list of products that would be subject to the new tariffs Trump has threatened to slap on $100 billion in Chinese goods. "The way the deal was structured was bad If we did a substantially better deal, I would be open to TPP".

USA negotiating partners might expect the United States to "pay for" restoring those provisions at this point, Cutler said. Trump's rejection of the deal has rattled allies and raised questions at home about whether protectionism will impede USA economic growth. Gasoline typically contains 10 percent ethanol.

In the meeting with farm state lawmakers, Trump also suggested the possibility of directing the Environmental Protection Agency to allow year-round sales of renewable fuel with blends of 15 percent ethanol.

An array of business executives are expressing alarm to federal lawmakers Thursday about the impact that tariffs will have on their business.

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Scott Paul, president of the Alliance for American Manufacturing, urged lawmakers and the administration to stay the course in getting tough on China.

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