Reaction to Trump's withdrawal from TPP doesn't fit cleanly along party lines

President Donald Trump’s decision to pull out of the Trans-Pacific Partnership Monday — effectively killing the landmark trade agreement — was met with praise and dismay that did not fit neatly along partisan lines.

Some progressive lawmakers touted Trump’s decision to back out of the 12 nation deal, which needed congressional ratification before being implemented.

“I am glad the Trans-Pacific Partnership is dead and gone,” Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont said in a statement moments after Trump made his executive order official. “For the last 30 years, we have had a series of trade deals — including the North American Free Trade Agreement, permanent normal trade relations with China and others — which have cost us millions of decent-paying jobs and caused a ‘race to the bottom’ which has lowered wages for American workers.”

Sanders, who sought the Democratic Party’s presidential nomination, said he would be “delighted” to work with Trump on new trade policy, so long as it helps “American workers.”

Sen. Sherrod Brown of Ohio, a progressive Democrat, praised the move as well, calling it “the first necessary step in overhauling our trade policy.”

“I stand ready to support Ohio workers by working with the Trump Administration to renegotiate NAFTA, put American workers ahead of corporate profits, and create jobs,” he said in a statement.

Trump had also pledged to sign an executive order to renegotiate NAFTA Monday. On TPP, Trump had called it “a rape of our country” during the campaign, and he had promised to pull out of the deal for months. On Monday, he told the White House press pool the move is a “great thing for the American worker.”

The agreement was the cornerstone of President Barack Obama’s planned “pivot to Asia” in foreign policy. Dan DiMicco, who led Trump’s trade transition team, said in a statement that the deal “should not be resurrected” now that the president pulled out.

But while progressive senators came out quickly in favour of the move, one of the strongest rebukes of the move came from Sen. John McCain of Arizona.

The Arizona Republican called the move “a serious mistake.”

“President Trump’s decision to formally withdraw from the Trans-Pacific Partnership is a serious mistake that will have lasting consequences for America’s economy and our strategic position in the Asia-Pacific region,” he said. “This decision will forfeit the opportunity to promote American exports, reduce trade barriers, open new markets, and protect American invention and innovation. It will create an opening for China to rewrite the economic rules of the road at the expense of American workers. And it will send a troubling signal of American disengagement in the Asia-Pacific region at a time we can least afford it.”

“Abandoning TPP is the wrong decision,” he continued. “Moving forward, it is imperative that America advances a positive trade agenda in the Asia-Pacific that will keep American workers and companies competitive in one of the most economically vibrant and fastest-growing regions in the world.”

Many mainstream Republicans and economists were in favour of the agreement. Prior to the election, Ohio Gov. John Kasich, who sought the Republican Party’s presidential nomination in this cycle, was tapped by Obama to help promote the deal and get Congress to pass the agreement.

The National Taxpayers Union, a conservative taxpayers advocacy organisation, also said Trump’s move to withdraw from the agreement was not the best decision.

“President Trump should re-engage in TPP negotiations while pursuing these pro-growth goals and resist a move toward protectionism,” NTU’s Executive Vice President Brandon Arnold said in a statement. “Further, as the president reexamines NAFTA, he should strive to update and modernise the agreement in a manner that reduces the taxes and burdens that impede international commerce.”

And Rolan Paris, a former foreign policy adviser to Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, went as far as saying the decision to dip out of TPP — considered by some to be a renegotiation of NAFTA as both Canada and Mexico were involved in the deal — was a huge win for China.

“Historians will look back at US cancellation of TPP as a major milestone in America’s retreat from global leadership,” he tweeted. “Big winner: China.”

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