Trump Signs Executive Order Killing Obama’s Legacy Trade Deal

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Ryan Pickrell China/Asia Pacific Reporter
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President Donald Trump signed an executive order Monday withdrawing from the legacy trade agreement former President Barack Obama worked on for years.

Trump withdrew from the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), fulfilling a campaign promise. The withdrawal was among the first orders of the day.

The Trump administration intends to pursue “trade deals working for all Americans.” According to the updated White House website, “this strategy starts by withdrawing from the Trans-Pacific Partnership and making certain that any new trade deals are in the interests of American workers.”

On the campaign trail, Trump repeatedly criticized the TPP.

Last summer, Trump described the 12-nation free-trade agreement as “another disaster done and pushed by special interests who want to rape our country, just a continuing rape of our country.”

After winning the election, he announced that he would tear up the TPP on day one.

The TPP was the economic pillar of Obama’s pivot to Asia. The giant free-trade agreement, which was signed but not ratified by the U.S., was billed as an essential counterweight to China.

The Obama administration argued that if the U.S. does not write the rules for international trade, “competitors who don’t share our values, like China, will step in and fill that void.” Former U.S. trade representative Michael Froman stressed that failing to ratify the TPP would be the equivalent of “handing China the keys to the castle.”

“If anyone were to say China is playing a leadership role in the world, I would say it’s not China rushing to the front but rather the front runners have stepped back leaving the place to China,” explained Zhang Jun, director general of the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs international economics department. “If China is required to play that leadership role then China will assume its responsibilities.”

Japan, a staunch U.S. ally in the Asia-Pacific, has been a strong advocate for the TPP and made the deal a cornerstone of domestic economic reform. The Japanese prime minister encouraged Trump to reconsider his plan Monday.

“I believe President Trump understands the importance of free and fair trade, so I’d like to pursue his understanding on the strategic and economic importance of the TPP trade pact,” Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said.

Regardless, Japan intends to continue to cooperate with the Trump administration. “When we met last time, I believed him to be trustworthy, this belief has not changed today,” Abe added.

Trump is expected to negotiate improved bilateral trade deals with the individual Pacific Rim countries affiliated with the TPP.

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