Donald Trump divorced the U.S. from Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement more than a year ago but his recent push to mend fences and rejoin the deal is meeting some resistance.
Australian Trade Minister Steve Ciobo told The Australian that the new Trans-Pacific Partnership should not cater to U.S. wishes to open up the agreement again just to placate the Trump administration. He told the newspaper that Trans-Pacific pact countries may not want to stop their ratification processes to allow the U.S. to re-enter the deal.
What’s more, he told The Australian, farmers in Australia would have an advantage in export markets over American growers if the agreement proceeds without the U.S.
Yet other trading partners said the U.S. interest was positive.
Yorizumi Watanabe, professor of policy management at Tokyo’s Keio University, told The Japan Times that the U.S. rejoining the trade deal — now called the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership, or TPP-11 — would help Japan’s economy more than a deal without the U.S. would.
Watanabe told The Times that the U.S. joining the pact also could take pressure off Japan to negotiate a bilateral deal with the U.S.
Testing the water
Trump signed an executive order Jan. 23 last year that formally withdrew the U.S. from the TPP but on April 12 Trump told lawmakers he is looking at rejoining the Asia-Pacific trade pact.
“Now we’re really negotiating and I think they’re going to treat us really fairly,” Trump told lawmakers and Republican governors on April 12, according to a Bloomberg report.
Later Trump tweeted, “Would only join TPP if the deal were substantially better than the deal offered to Pres. Obama. We already have bilateral deals with six of the eleven nations in TPP, and are working to make a deal with the biggest of those nations, Japan, who has hit us hard on trade for years!”
The farm sector has believed a trade agreement with Southeast Asian countries would bring big benefits, said Mark Powers, president of the Northwest Horticultural Council.
“It is encouraging to see the president entertaining thoughts of re-engaging with the trade agreement,” he said.
The overture comes at a time when Trump is facing pushback from the farm community over the possibility of a trade war with China. In early April, China hiked tariffs on U.S. fruit and nuts by 15% in retaliation for U.S. tariffs on Chinese steel and aluminum. China has promised other tariffs on U.S. ag commodities if the U.S. adds more tariffs on Chinese goods.
Trump told lawmakers, according to a Bloomberg article, that economic adviser Larry Kudlow and U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer have been given the task of determining if the U.S. can benefit from re-entering the TPP.