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Trump Considers Changing Mind on TPP

Representatives of members of Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade deal pose for an official picture after the signing agreement ceremony in Santiago, Chile March 8, 2018. (Rodrigo Garrido/Reuters)

President Donald Trump is reportedly considering reentering Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) negotiations after repeatedly disparaging the agreement during his campaign and abandoning ongoing negotiations as one of his first acts in office.

Trump empowered National Economic Council Chairman Larry Kudlow and U.S. Trade Representative Tony Lighthizer to negotiate America’s entry into the Obama-era trade agreement during a White House meeting on trade and agriculture Thursday, senator Ben Sasse (R., Neb.) told reporters.

“Clearly it’s a deliberative process and the president is somebody who likes to blue sky a lot, [but] he multiple times reaffirmed the idea that TPP would be easier for us to join now,” Sasse said.

Trump has harshly criticized the TPP as a prime example of the unfair trade agreements that he believes destroyed the American manufacturing sector. “The Trans-Pacific Partnership is another disaster done and pushed by special interests who want to rape our country, just a continuing rape of our country,” he said in June 2016.

The U.S. led the way in organizing the agreement under former President Barack Obama but never officially entered due to a lack of congressional approval. One year after announcing the U.S. would pull out of negotiations, Trump opened the possibility of reentering negotiations if he was confident the U.S. could secure more favorable terms.

“I’ll give you a big story. I would do TPP if we made a much better deal than we had,” he told CNBC in January.

Trump’s newfound trade flexibility comes amid escalating tensions with China, spurred on by a series of increasingly aggressive tariff threats.

Republican lawmakers representing agricultural states have voiced concerns that Trump’s protectionist measures will harm farmers — a concern Trump has sidestepped by promising to “take care” of the agricultural community, without providing specifics.

Chinese president Xi Jingping signaled a willingness to acquiesce to some of the Trump administration’s demands during a Tuesday speech in which he committed to lowering auto tariffs and bolstering China’s lax intellectual-property protections. But Chinese officials subsequently pushed back on the notion that Xi’s speech was delivered in response to increased tensions between the world’s two largest economies.

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