Senate Republicans call on Trump to re-engage on TPP

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More than two dozen Senate Republicans are urging President Trump to re-engage in Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) negotiations.

The 25 GOP lawmakers sent a letter to Trump on Friday saying they support his recent comments that he may consider U.S. participation if the 11-nation Asia-Pacific pact is improved.


“We encourage you to work aggressively to secure reforms that would allow the United States to join the agreement,” the senators wrote.

The Republican letter, which was released on Wednesday, was sent the same day Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross made public two reports on steel and aluminum that provided Trump with several recommendations, including steep tariffs and strict quotas.

“Increased economic engagement with the eleven nations currently in the TPP has the potential to substantially improve the competitiveness of U.S. businesses, support millions of U.S. jobs, increase U.S. exports, increase wages, fully unleash America’s energy potential and benefit consumers,” wrote the lawmakers, including Senate Finance Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch (Utah), whose panel oversees trade issues.

The letter was sent prior to Trump’s meeting with Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull at the White House later this week, where trade is an expected topic.

Trump withdrew the United States from the TPP agreement shortly after taking office, calling the Obama-era trade deal a “disaster” for the United States.

But more recently Trump seemed open to rejoining the Pacific Rim deal after the 11 remaining nations announced in January that they had reached an agreement on the pact without the United States.

Those nations include Canada and Mexico, which are are a part of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), along with Japan, Australia and Malaysia.

“I would do TPP if we were able to make a substantially better deal,” Trump told CNBC at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.

“The deal was terrible, the way it was structured was terrible. If we did a substantially better deal, I would be open to TPP,” he said.

Up until those comments in Davos, the White House has consistently expressed interest in forging only bilateral agreements, instead of more comprehensive deals.

Senate Republicans have been especially vocal lately on trade issues, and in a letter ahead of the State of the Union address urged Trump to complete an update of the three-nation NAFTA deal.

In a White House meeting last week, Republicans notably pushed back against Trump’s apparent desire to slap tariffs on steel and aluminum imports despite warnings from lawmakers that the move for national security concerns could cost U.S. jobs and damage the economy.

Before President Obama left office, advocates for TPP argued that the deal needed ratification because its reach eclipsed economics and would anchor the United States in the rapidly growing Pacific region while providing a buffer against economic powerhouse China. 

“TPP can serve as a way to strengthen ties with our allies in the region,” counter the influence of China and “increase pressure” on Beijing to make substantive positive economic reforms, the lawmakers wrote. 

Plus it would “provide another platform to modernize trade with Canada and Mexico,” they wrote.  

When antitrade rhetoric dominated the 2016 presidential campaign, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) decided to put off any consideration of TPP until after the election.

The senators also vowed to push for confirmation of any trade nominees to the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative, Commerce and other federal agencies. 

Tags Donald Trump International trade Mitch McConnell North American Free Trade Agreement Orrin Hatch Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) Wilbur Ross

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