Trump Calls for Rejoining the Trade Partnership He Unilaterally Abandoned

JM Ashby
Written by JM Ashby

Donald Trump had never uttered the letters TPP prior to the 2016 election when his advisers observed how useful it could be after Senator Bernie Sanders and other critics used free trade in general against Hillary Clinton. The left had turned the past 30 years of economic policy around and blamed it almost exclusively on Hillary Clinton even though she was merely the First Lady when the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) became the law of the land.

Fast forward to 2018 and Trump is now calling for the United States to rejoin the same Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) that he abandoned in 2017.

From Reuters:

WASHINGTON/TOKYO (Reuters) - U.S. President Donald Trump said the United States would only join the Trans Pacific Partnership, a multinational trade deal his administration walked away from last year, if it offered “substantially better” terms than those provided under previous negotiations.

His comments, made on Twitter late Thursday, came only hours after he had unexpectedly indicated the United States might rejoin the landmark pact, and amid heightened volatility in financial markets as Washington locked horns with China in a bitter trade dispute.

Trump had told Republican senators earlier in the day that he had asked United States Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow to re-open negotiations.

Trump says we will only rejoin the trade pact if we're offered a "better" deal than what President Obama negotiated, but it is virtually guaranteed that Trump does not even know what a "better" deal would look like. I doubt Trump could even tell you what the letters TPP stand for. The idea that President Obama negotiated a weak deal is, at least in Trump's case, merely a reflection that he does not believe the black president was capable of negotiating a good deal.

The big problem for Trump now is that rejoining the deal will not be easy and will almost certainly not garner more favorable terms than what President Obama negotiated.

The United States led negotiations with members of the Trans-Pacific Partnership and guided the whole process of completing it, but that's just it; it's complete. Members of the trade partnership finalized and signed the deal earlier this year without the United States and, before it was finalized, they stripped language that was favorable to the United States. They had no reason not to given that we were no longer a party to it.

Like many Americans, foreign leaders are highly skeptical that Trump's overtures will ultimately result in us rejoining the partnership we negotiated.

If it’s true, I would welcome it,” Japanese Finance Minister Taro Aso told reporters after a cabinet meeting on Friday and before Trump’s tweet. Aso added that the facts needed to be verified.

Trump “is a person who could change temperamentally, so he may say something different the next day”, Aso said.

Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, commenting after Trump’s tweet, said it would be “great” to have the U.S. back in the pact though doubted it would happen.

We’re certainly not counting on it,” Turnbull told reporters in Adelaide in South Australia.


Comparing the multicountry trade agreement to “a glasswork,” Yoshihide Suga, Japan’s chief cabinet secretary, cautioned against any efforts to change it to accommodate Mr. Trump.

“It’s difficult to bring part of the pact and renegotiate it,” he said, calling it a “well-balanced pact” that carefully addressed the needs of the current 11 member nations.

“We’ve got a deal” already, said Steven Ciobo, Australia’s trade minister, who added, “I can’t see that all being thrown open to appease the United States.”

Of course not. Why should they appease us when we elected the moron-in-chief who unilaterally withdrew from it without even attempting to make any changes?

Liberal critics and self-interested parties from Senators Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren to AFL-CIO boss Richard Trumka responded to Trump's change of heart with horror last night.

I can't help but delight in the fact they've been burned by Trump because they never should have trusted or allied with his cause to begin with. They have their own opinions about trade policy, and that's fine, but the idea that their ideals were shared by Trump was always a lie. Trump does not care about working Americans and pretending that he does provided far too much legitimacy to policy decisions he was making out of pure ignorance.

Just because Trump's impulsive, ignorant decisions are occasionally useful for you does not mean you should claim them as your own. The amount of bad faith required to pretend that Trump actually cares about the people you claim to represent is frankly staggering to me.

  • muselet

    I seriously doubt the eleven signatories to CPTPP would be willing to cut the US much slack in negotiations, especially with Donald Trump at the wheel. In three years, with a completely different administration, perhaps.

    In the meantime, we get to deal with the consequences of Trump’s impulsive stupidity.


  • Badgerite

    trump knows that any favorable ratings he currently has is pinned to a reasonably well functioning economy that was left to him by his predecessor. If he tanks it, it will tank him. And he knows it. The GOP are ‘retiring’ because they know the coming tanking of the economy is pretty much guaranteed with their ‘tax cuts for the concentrated wealth’ and trump’s ridiculous alienation of the rest of the world and our most valued trading partners. FFFF him.

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  • gescove

    I was for it before I was against it before I was for it but I’m only for it if it’s changed and if not then I’m against it. I need a neck brace for whiplash. And a stiff drink.