President Donald Trump on Monday formally pulled the US out of the Trans-Pacific Partnership as he signed an executive action to withdraw from the negotiating process of the 12-nation trade deal, one of the major international trade initiatives of his predecessor Barack Obama.
“We’ve been talking about this for a long time...It is a great thing for the American worker,” Trump said as he signed the decree to withdraw the US from the TPP, which aimed to set trade rules for the 21st century and bind US allies against growing Chinese economic clout.
Trump had vowed during the campaign to withdraw the US from the Pacific trade deal which he argued was harmful to American workers and manufacturing.
Trump had said the free trade agreements were lopsided against the US and vowed to implement more protectionist trade policies as president, rallying voters to the polls with his “America First” slogan.
The TPP was negotiated under former President Barack Obama, but never ratified by Congress, so withdrawing from it will not have an immediate, real effect on US economic policies, although it does signal a new and very different US outlook on trade under Trump.
Its signatories—Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, the United States and Brunei—together represent 40 per cent of the world economy.
Fast-tracking implementation of his campaign promises, Trump also signed two other orders including freezing the hiring of federal workers and hitting foreign organisations that provide abortions.
The Wall Street Journal said the move was largely symbolic, because congressional leaders and the Obama administration had signalled in November that no near-term vote would be held on the TPP.
Top Republican Senator John McCain described Trump’s decision as a “mistake”.
“President Trump’s decision to formally withdraw from the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) is a serious mistake that will have lasting consequences for America’s economy and our strategic position in the Asia-Pacific region,” he said.
“This decision will forfeit the opportunity to promote American exports, reduce trade barriers, open new markets, and protect American invention and innovation,” he argued.
“It will create an opening for China to rewrite the economic rules of the road at the expense of American workers. And it will send a troubling signal of American disengagement in the Asia-Pacific region at a time we can least afford it,” he noted.
“Abandoning TPP is the wrong decision. Moving forward, it is imperative that America advances a positive trade agenda in the Asia-Pacific that will keep American workers and companies competitive in one of the most economically vibrant and fastest-growing regions in the world,” McCain said.
However, Democratic Senator from Ohio Sherrod Brown described this move as one that would reboot the manufacturing sector.
“Throwing out TPP is the first necessary step in overhauling our trade policy to put American workers first,” said Brown.