Duluth News Tribune: Trump pulls U.S. out of Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal
WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump formally withdrew the United States from the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal on Monday, distancing America from its Asian allies, as China's influence in the region rises.
Fulfilling a campaign pledge to end American involvement in the 2015 pact, Trump signed an executive order in the Oval Office pulling the United States out of the 12-nation TPP.
Trump, who wants to boost U.S. manufacturing, said he would seek one-on-one trade deals with countries that would allow the United States to quickly terminate them in 30 days "if somebody misbehaves."
"We're going to stop the ridiculous trade deals that have taken everybody out of our country and taken companies out of our country," the Republican president said as he met with union leaders in the White House's Roosevelt Room.
The TPP accord, backed heavily by U.S. business, was negotiated by former Democratic President Barack Obama's administration but never approved by Congress.
Obama had framed TPP, which excluded China, as an effort to write Asia's trade rules before Beijing could, establishing U.S. economic leadership in the region as part of his "pivot to Asia."
China has proposed a Free Trade Area of the Asia Pacific and has also championed the Southeast Asian-backed Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership.
Trump has sparked worries in Japan and elsewhere in the Asia-Pacific with his opposition to the TPP and his campaign demands for U.S. allies to pay more for their security.
His trade stance mirrors a growing feeling among Americans that international trade deals have hurt the U.S. job market. Republicans have long held the view that free trade is a must, but that mood has been changing.
"It's going to be very difficult to fight that fight," said Lanhee Chen, a Hoover Institution fellow who was domestic policy adviser to 2012 Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney. "Trump is reflecting a trend that has been apparent for many years."
Rep. Rick Nolan, D-Crosby, a critic of the TPP, applauded Trump’s move to block the trade deal.
“Those of us who worked so hard to kill the TPP absolutely believe that trade is good for our nation,” Nolan said in a statement Monday. “But it must be fair trade that requires partner nations to abide by the same standards of living wages, health care and pensions, worker and environmental protections, food and health safety and human rights as we do. American workers can compete successfully anywhere in the world on a level playing field.”
Leo W. Gerard, president of United Steelworkers International, said Monday's action "draws a line in the sand that hopefully is just the start of President Trump’s promised, pro-worker, pro-income-growth agenda that prioritizes revitalizing manufacturing. We look forward to working with the current administration on overcapacity in steel (and) aluminum, and on currency manipulation and other unfair trade practices.
"This should be just the beginning of a new approach on trade. We want to work with President Trump and his administration to do much more."
Harry Kazianis, director of defense studies at the Center for the National Interest think tank in Washington, said Trump must now find an alternative way to reassure allies in Asia.
"This could include multiple bilateral trade agreements. Japan, Taiwan and Vietnam should be approached first as they are key to any new Asia strategy that President Trump will enact," he said.
Officials in Australia and New Zealand said today they hope to salvage the TPP by encouraging China, Indonesia and other Asian nations into the agreement.
Meanwhile, Trump is also working to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement to provide more favorable terms to the United States, telling reporters Monday that he would meet leaders of NAFTA partners Mexico and Canada to get the process started.
Canada has a "very special status" and is unlikely to be hit hard by changes the U.S. wants to make to the trade accord, the head of a business advisory council to Trump said Monday after addressing Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his cabinet,
Meeting with business leaders
Trump met with a dozen American manufacturers at the White House on Monday, pledging to slash regulations and cut corporate taxes — but warning them he would take action on trade deals he felt were unfair.
Trump, who took office on Friday, has promised to bring factories back to the United States. He has not hesitated to call out by name companies he thinks should bring outsourced production back home.
He said those businesses that choose to move plants outside the country would pay a price. "We are going to be imposing a very major border tax on the product when it comes in," Trump said.
He asked the group of chief executives from companies including Ford Motor Co, Dell Technologies Inc, Tesla Motors Inc and others to make recommendations in 30 days to stimulate manufacturing, Dow Chemical Co Chief Executive Officer Andrew Liveris told reporters.
The president told the CEOs he would like to cut corporate taxes to the 15 percent to 20 percent range, down from current statutory levels of 35 percent — a pledge that will require cooperation from the Republican-led U.S. Congress.
But he said business leaders have told him that reducing regulations is even more important.
"We think we can cut regulations by 75 percent. Maybe more," Trump told business leaders.
"When you want to expand your plant, or when Mark wants to come in and build a big massive plant, or when Dell wants to come in and do something monstrous and special — you're going to have your approvals really fast," Trump said, referring to Mark Fields, CEO of Ford.