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Trump pulls U.S. from TPP trade deal

During his first week as President of the United States, Donald Trump began fulfilling his campaign pledge to undo America’s trade ties. He started with an executive order on Mon, Jan. 23 that formally withdrew the country from the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

Upon signing the order in the Oval Office, Trump said to reporters, “Great thing for the American worker, what we just did.”

It was the President’s fourth executive action since his inauguration on Fri, Jan. 20. As of the morning of Jan. 28, he has made 14 in total. Among them is the reinstatement of the “Mexico City Policy,” which was first introduced by former President Ronald Reagan and blocks the use of U.S. taxpayer dollars to fund non-governmental organizations that promote or perform abortions. Another executive action encourages the construction of the Dakota Access and Keystone XL Pipelines, and a third bars all visitors to the U.S. from several predominantly Muslim countries.

The Trans-Pacific Partnership was planned to be a trade agreement among 12 nations bordering the Pacific Ocean. The pact aimed to strengthen economic ties and boost growth among these nations by cutting back tariffs and fostering trade. Together, its signatories―Australia, Vietnam, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, Brunei and the U.S.―represented about 40% of global economic output.

The TPP was negotiated under former President Barack Obama, who had wished to leave the deal as part of his legacy. However, in order for it to come into effect all 12 member states needed to ratify the TPP, and regardless of the administration in power, its chances at Congressional approval were modest. The majority of opposition to the deal had come from members of Mr. Obama’s own Democratic party, who were concerned about the impact of the TPP on American manufacturers and their employees. Hillary Clinton had been in favor of the pact while serving as secretary of state, but had backed off her support for it during her time as the Democratic presidential nominee following pressure from the party. The TPP was heavily protested at the Democratic National Convention in July 2016, roughly six months after it was originally signed.

A notable voice of dissent from the left had belonged to Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont. “Now is the time to develop a new trade policy that helps working families, not just multinational corporations,” he said on Monday of Trump’s decision. “If President Trump is serious about a new policy to help American workers, then I would be delighted to work with him.”

A number of Republicans were unhappy with the withdrawal, although few challenged Trump publicly. One who did so was Arizona Senator John McCain, who said in a statement that “[Withdrawing from the Trans-Pacific Partnership] will send a troubling signal of American disengagement in the Asia-Pacific region at a time we can least afford it.”

As the TPP had not yet been ratified by all of its signatories, Trump’s executive action took immediate effect and had no direct impact. But some critics, including Michael B. Froman, a trade representative who negotiated the TPP for Mr. Obama, have said that in losing a twenty-first century free trade agreement and undercutting his predecessor’s “pivot to Asia,” Trump is ceding the field to China. “There’s no doubt that this action will be seen as a huge, huge win for China,” Froman said in an interview. “For the Trump administration, after all this talk about being tough on China, for their first action to basically hand the keys to China and say ‘we’re withdrawing from our leadership position in this region’ is geostrategically damaging.”

The TPP’s remaining 11 member states may try to preserve the deal, which has already been ratified by Japan. However, the U.S.’s absence will call for heavy reworking of the agreement before it can go into effect. President Trump’s withdrawal from the Trans-Pacific Partnership has likely signalled the death of the agreement altogether.

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