From staff and
WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump moved to pull the United States out of the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership trade pact Monday, dealing a quick blow to Barack Obama’s legacy as the new chief executive began fulfilling campaign promises in his first full week in office.
“Great thing for the American worker that we just did,” Trump said in brief remarks as he signed a notice in the Oval Office.
Trump campaigned as a fierce opponent of multilateral trade agreements, particularly the 12-nation Pacific Rim deal.
Over the last few years, Ohio farming and agriculture organizations have lobbied in support of the TPP. Ohio farm producers export millions of dollars in agriculture produce and technology products to Asian countries annually. At last year’s Ohio Farm Bureau President’s Trip to Washington, Ohio Sen. Rob Portman expressed support for the TPP proposal.
It is not know yet what impact this decision will have on current American agriculture exports to Asian nations such as Japan, which receives tons of non-GMO soybeans from the U.S. each year; or what impact the order will have on U.S. agriculture exports to China, which was not one of the nations in the deal, but was seen as its target. The U.S. for example, exported to China in 2015 more than a billion bushels of soybeans, with the number in 2016 expected to be even higher.
The deal was the cornerstone of Obama’s attempt to counter China’s influence in Asia. The Obama administration labored for years to finalize TPP. But Obama’s own Democratic Party was skeptical of the pact, and the former president never sent it to Congress for ratification.
Obama’s administration worked with the 11 countries that became signatories for more than two years to formulate the massive free trade deal that was set to reshape commerce throughout the Pacific Rim, triggering movement among multinational companies in the region at the same time. Trump’s election swiftly dealt a death knell — one formalized on Monday — to the deal, sending shockwaves in Asian capitals that had pinned their economic hopes on the deal.
Trump’s decision to withdraw the US from TPP is also a first step in the administration’s efforts to amass a governing coalition to push the new President’s agenda, one that includes the blue-collar workers who defected from Democrats and flocked to Trump’s candidacy in November.
The move could also put many Democrats — particularly those who opposed the trade deal — in a tricky position as they look to hold on to union support, a key constituency in their political coalition.
Obama struggled to sell many Democrats on the trade deal, in particular because of concerns about how the trade deal would impact American manufacturers and the US workers in that industry.
Even Hillary Clinton, the Democratic presidential nominee who pushed the TPP deal as secretary of state, backed off her support for the deal during the campaign amid pressure from the left.
Democrats with heavy union worker constituencies will either need to get on board with Trump’s protectionist trade policies or risk losing reelection.
Republican leaders, many of whom supported the TPP trade deal and free trade more broadly, will also be pressed to react Monday — reactions that could show daylight between top Republicans on Capitol Hill and the White House on a top policy issue.
Trump has said that he also plans to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement, a free trade deal joining the US, Mexico and Canada.
He began the day huddling with business leaders. He warned that he would impose a “substantial border tax” on companies that move their manufacturing out of the United States. He also promised tax advantages to companies that produce products domestically.
“All you have to do is stay,” he said during a meeting in the White House’s Roosevelt Room.
Tesla CEO Elon Musk and Marillyn Hewson of Lockheed Martin were among the executives who attended the meeting. The gathering kicked off a jam-packed day for the new president, including an evening reception with lawmakers from both parties and a sit-down with union leaders.
Trump ran for office pledging to overhaul U.S. trade policy, arguing that massive free-trade agreements have disadvantaged American workers. Since winning the White House, he’s aggressively called out companies that have moved factories overseas, vowing to slap taxes on products they then try to sell in the U.S.
“Some people say that’s not free trade, but we don’t have free trade now,” Trump said Monday.
Trump also announced that he’s set up meetings with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto, whose countries are partners with the U.S. in the North American Free Trade Agreement. Trump has vowed to renegotiate the terms of that pact.
“We’re going to start some negotiations having to do with NAFTA,” he said of his meeting with Pena Nieto.
The executive action will be just one part of the Trump administration’s efforts to focus attention on its plans to radically reshape US trade policies, making good on a central premise of Trump’s campaign and its economic nationalist underbelly.
As the Republican nominee, Trump railed against free trade agreements he argued were lopsided against the US and vowed to implement more protectionist trade policies as president, rallying voters to the polls with his “America First” slogan.
Trump has also threatened to impose trade tariffs as a way to revive American manufacturing and compel US companies not to take their manufacturing operations abroad.