WASHINGTON, Jan. 23, 2017 - President Donald Trump today officially pulled the U.S. out of the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a 12-nation trade pact that the Obama administration spent years orchestrating in order to give the U.S. a new leadership role among Pacific Rim countries.
“A great thing for the American worker, what we just did,” Trump said as he signed the executive order that leaves the remaining 11 TPP countries facing an uncertain future.
Japan, Mexico, Canada, Australia, Vietnam, Brunei, Chile, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore and Malaysia could try to move forward with the trade pact without the U.S., but many will likely join a competing 16-member trade deal with China - the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) - Michael Froman, then the U.S. Trade Representative, said shortly before Trump replaced Barack Obama in the White House.
Trump campaigned heavily last year against multilateral trade deals like TPP and the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), blaming them for the loss of manufacturing jobs by enticing companies to relocate factories in countries like Mexico. Trump has also pledged to renegotiate NAFTA or pull the U.S. out of that 22-year-old trade pact with Mexico and Canada.
NAFTA and TPP were likely both subjects in recent telephone discussions Trump had with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto. Trump spokesman Sean Spicer said that the new U.S. president is scheduled to meet with Peña Nieto to discuss trade, immigration and security issues on Jan. 31.
Withdrawal from TPP is being applauded by many on Capitol Hill, but much of the U.S. farming sector was counting on TPP to boost sales of beef, oilseeds, dairy, fruits, vegetables and other ag commodities.
"Trade is something soybean farmers take very seriously,” American Soybean Association President Ron Moore said today in a statement after Trump signed the executive order. “We export more than half the soy we grow here in the United States, and still more in the form of meat and other products that are produced with our meal and oil. The TPP held great promise for us, and has been a key priority for several years now. We're very disappointed to see the withdrawal today."
Trump's opposition to the TPP has put him in conflict with some of his supporters in rural America, but it's also drawn support for some of his biggest critics in Washington, including Democratic lawmakers like Connecticut Rep. Rosa DeLauro who are celebrating the U.S. leaving TPP.
Former Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) also campaigned against TPP, a cornerstone of the Obama administration's trade agenda.
“I am glad the Trans-Pacific Partnership is dead and gone,” Sanders said today in a statement. “For the last 30 years, we have had a series of trade deals - including the North American Free Trade Agreement, permanent normal trade relations with China and others - which have cost us millions of decent-paying jobs and caused a ‘race to the bottom' which has lowered wages for American workers. Now is the time to develop a new trade policy that helps working families, not just multinational corporations. If President Trump is serious about a new policy to help American workers then I would be delighted to work with him.”
But Trump's action today was a blow for Republican Sen. Ben Sasse of Nebraska.
"It's clear that those of us who believe trade is good for American families have done a terrible job defending trade's historic successes and celebrating its future potential,” Sassse said. “We have to make the arguments and we have to start now."