Day one of Trump presidency: Withdraw from the TPP

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( – President-elect Donald Trump said Monday that on his first day in office next January he will begin the process of withdrawing from the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), a prospective trade deal which has been a centerpiece of the Obama administration’s “rebalance” to Asia, but which Trump while campaigning called “horrible.”

Trump said in an online video message on priorities for his first 100 days that he has asked his transition team “to develop a list of executive actions we can take on day one, to restore our laws and bring back our jobs. It’s about time.”

“On trade, I am going to issue our notification of intent to withdraw from the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a potential disaster for our country,” he said. “Instead, we will negotiate fair, bilateral trade deals that bring jobs and industry back onto American shores.”

Trump characterized the move a part of a plan to advance the simple core principle of “putting American first.”

“Whether it’s producing steel, building cars, or curing disease, I want the next generation of production and innovation to happen right here, on our great homeland, America – creating wealth and jobs for American workers,” he said.

The TPP partners the U.S. with 11 countries on either side of the Pacific – Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore and Vietnam.

U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman has said the agreement would usher in more than $130 billion a year in estimated GDP growth and more than $350 billion in additional exports.

But Trump during the campaign described the TPP as “horrible” and “one of the worst trade deals,” adding that “I’d rather make individual deals with individual countries. We will do much better.”

Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton, who was secretary of state at the time negotiations for the deal were launched, also opposed it during her presidential campaign – despite having praised it in earlier years, saying in 2012 that it set “the gold standard in trade agreements.”

‘There is no free lunch’

During a series of meetings in New Jersey on Sunday, Trump on Sunday met with Wilbur Ross, a billionaire investor who is believed to be in the running to be commerce secretary in a Trump administration.

“They engaged in a conversation regarding negotiating the best foreign deals, American manufacturing and job creation,” the transition team said in a statement afterwards.

Ross is known to be critical of free trade deals.

“Free trade is like free lunch,” he said in a Fox Business interview last August. “There is no free lunch. Somebody wins and somebody loses and unfortunately we’ve been losing with these stupid agreements that we’ve made.”

DNC delegates protest against the TPP at the Democratic National Convention in July. (AP Photo, File)
Trump’s announcement Monday came three days after Obama met with the other TPP leaders in Peru and, in the words of a White House readout, “discussed the United States’ continued strong support for trade, our commitment to strengthening ties to the Asia-Pacific, and the need to remain engaged in an increasingly interconnected world.”

“President Obama discussed his support of high-standard trade agreements like TPP, which level the playing field for American workers and advance our interests and values in the economically dynamic and strategically-significant Asia-Pacific region,” it said.

The readout said Obama had urged the other TPP partners’ leaders “to continue to work together to advance TPP.”

During a press conference in Lima on Sunday, Obama said his meeting with the TPP partners had been “a chance to reaffirm our commitment to the TPP, with its high standards, strong protections for workers, the environment, intellectual property and human rights.”

“Our partners made very clear during the meeting that they want to move forward with TPP; preferably, they’d like to move forward with the United States.”

Obama said that not moving ahead with the TPP “would undermine our position across the region and our ability to shape the rules of global trade in a way that reflects our interests and our values.”

In a speech last September, Secretary of State John Kerry urged Congress to pass the TPP during the lame duck session.

“We can’t just stand up and say to the world, ‘Hey, we’re a Pacific power.’ We have to show it in our actions and in our choices,” he said at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars.

“We can’t talk about the ‘rebalance’ to Asia one day and then sit on the sidelines the next, and expect to possibly send a credible message to partners and to potential partners around the world.”

Trump’s other priorities

Other measures listed by Trump in Monday’s video included:

–canceling “job-killing restrictions on the production of American energy, including shale energy and clean coal”

–formulating a rule saying that for every new regulation introduced, two old regulations must be eliminated

–tasking the Pentagon and joint chiefs of staff to develop a comprehensive plan to protect the nation’s vital infrastructure from cyber or other types of attack

–directing the Department of Labor to investigate all visa program abuses “that undercut the American worker”

–introducing a five-year ban on executive officials working as lobbyists after leaving the administration, and a  lifetime ban on executive officials lobbying on behalf of foreign governments

“These are just a few of the steps we will take to reform Washington and rebuild our middle class,” he concluded.