- Sen. Ben Sasse said on Thursday that President Donald Trump had told two advisers to look into getting the US back into the Trans-Pacific Partnership.
- Trump pulled the US out of the TPP two days after taking office.
- The move would be a reversal of Trump’s recent protectionist trade rhetoric.
President Donald Trump appears to be reversing course on a major multilateral trade deal.
Republican Sen. Ben Sasse, a staunch free-trade advocate, told reporters Thursday that during a White House meeting earlier in the day, Trump directed Larry Kudlow, the director of the National Economic Council, and Robert Lighthizer, the US trade representative, to reenter negotiations to get the US back into the Trans-Pacific Partnership.
The TPP, crafted most extensively by the Obama administration, spanned 12 countries around the Pacific Rim, including Japan, Australia, Mexico, and Canada. Though President Barack Obama signed the deal in February 2016, Trump yanked the US out of the agreement two days after his inauguration the following January.
The other 11 countries last month signed a new agreement, called the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership.
“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,” Sasse said in a statement after the meeting. “It is good news that today the president directed Larry Kudlow and Ambassador Lighthizer to negotiate US entry into TPP.”
Though Trump trashed the TPP during his 2016 campaign, once calling it a “rape of our country,” he suggested in January that the US could get back into the deal if terms were improved. But many nations in the TPP have said the White House never engaged in serious talks about it.
Meanwhile, Trump has recently taken several protectionist trade measures, including announcing tariffs on imports of steel, aluminium, and certain Chinese goods worth $US50 billion annually.
Despite Trump’s fiery rhetoric, Kudlow suggested late last week that the president was attempting to find a “coalition of the willing” to take on China over trade – some lawmakers and experts speculated that the “coalition” could be the TPP nations.
Sen. John Thune, the third-highest ranking GOP senator, also said that Trump directed staffers to look into rejoining the TPP.
“He was very, I would say, bullish about that,” Thune told reporters.
The move is likely to delight free trade Republicans who were concerned about Trump’s recent trade decisions. But, not everyone was happy with the news. Richard Trumka, the president of the massive labour organisation ADL-CIO, blasted the move by Trump as an affront to American workers.
“[email protected] #TPP was killed because it failed America’s workers and it should remain dead,”Trumka tweeted. “There is no conceivable way to revive it without totally betraying working people.”
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