WORLD Trump’s trad­ing places on TPP

Weekend Gold Coast Bulletin - - WORLD -

IN a strik­ing re­ver­sal, Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump has asked trade of­fi­cials to ex­plore the pos­si­bil­ity of the US re­join­ing the Trans-Pa­cific Part­ner­ship agree­ment, a free-trade deal he pulled out of dur­ing his first days in of­fice as part of his “Amer­ica first” agenda.

Mr Trump’s re­quest comes as he faces pres­sure from farm­state Repub­li­cans anx­ious that his pro­tec­tion­ist trade poli­cies could spi­ral into a trade war with China.

Mr Trump spent the 2016 pres­i­den­tial cam­paign rip­ping into the multi­na­tional pact, say­ing he could get a bet­ter deal for US busi­nesses by ne­go­ti­at­ing one-on-one with coun­tries in the Pa­cific Rim.

Now, faced with the po­lit­i­cal con­se­quences of the ac­tion, Mr Trump (pic­tured) ap­pears to be re­con­sid­er­ing.

“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. The Pres­i­dent as­signed his top trade ad­vis­ers, US trade rep­re­sen­ta­tive Robert Lighthizer and his new chief eco­nomic ad­viser Larry Kud­low, “to take an­other look at whether or not a bet­ter deal could be ne­go­ti­ated”.

Mr Trump first dis­closed his re­quest yes­ter­day to a group of politi­cians at a White House meet­ing on trade. Politi­cians have been press­ing Mr Trump to shift course af­ter es­ca­lat­ing trade threats, in­clud­ing China’s plan to slap tar­iffs on soy­beans and other US crops.

The ap­par­ent de­ci­sion comes af­ter the 11 other TPP coun­tries signed the pact in San­ti­ago, Chile. The agree­ment is meant to es­tab­lish freer trade in the Asia-Pa­cific re­gion and put pres­sure on China to open its mar­kets.

Ja­pan cau­tiously re­sponded yes­ter­day to Mr Trump’s re­quest. Gov­ern­ment spokesman Yoshi­hide Suga in Tokyo said Ja­pan wel­comed the re­quest if it meant Mr Trump recog­nised the sig­nif­i­cance of the pact. He added that it would be dif­fi­cult to rene­go­ti­ate only parts of the TPP.

It was not im­me­di­ately clear how com­mit­ted Mr Trump was to em­bark­ing on a new path of po­ten­tially thorny ne­go­ti­a­tions. He has mused pub­licly about re­join­ing the deal be­fore, sug­gest­ing he would re-en­ter if he could ne­go­ti­ate more favourable terms. It was also un­clear how will­ing the other 11 coun­tries would be to re­open the agree­ment and make con­ces­sions to lure the US back.

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