From Obamacare to NATO, and from Ex-Im Bank to Chinese currency manipulators, President Trump has shown he is comfortable changing his mind 'bigly'. Today's exuberant support for "TTIP as good for global order," from Speaker Ryan, following VP Pence's meetings in Japan, raises questions about whether Trump's executive order withdrawing from the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) free trade agreement is the next big flip-flop.
During his presidential campaign, Trump often criticized the TPP agreement and called it a "terrible deal," which is harmful for US workers. On January 23, Donald Trump signed an executive order withdrawing the United States from the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) free trade agreement and promised to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). The Trump administration was expected to at least delay talks on the TTIP deal, according to media reports.
And then today,. Speaker Ryan, according to Bloomberg News noted that "TTIP was good for global order," adding…
We are more determined than ever to lead. We don't want China to write the rules of the 21st century global economy. We want to do that. We want a level playing field for our businesses. And yes, we want free trade deals, but they have to be smart trade deals. They need to help workers and raise wages. They need to create high-paying, sustainable jobs. The good news is that these are exactly the type of jobs you get from smart free trade agreements. And we must continue to sharpen tools to combat unfair trade practices.
Now that Article 50 has been invoked, the UK and EU will determine the best path forward over the course of negotiations. We want the parties to come together and strike a lasting agreement. A strong UK-EU relationship is in all of our best interests.
In that same vein, the United States will continue to work closely with our EU friends, and chart a path forward on TTIP negotiations.
And while it's a jump from the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) to the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), as one analyst notes, given his recent backtracking, it's not beyond the realms of possibility…
"Whoever thought that Trump would let China, a rival, off the hook on currency? If he can do that with a country that's clearly not a friend, maybe he could reconsider reversing himself on TPP for a friend like Japan," Sean King, senior vice president of Park Strategies, told CNBC on Tuesday.
Japan was set to be a major beneficiary of TPP, particularly the country's auto sector that would have obtained cheaper access to U.S. markets. Tokyo, which has long lamented the trade pact would be "meaningless" without the U.S., has decided to forge ahead with the other remaining 10 participating nations to revive the deal but many are doubtful of whether the TPP will be a game-changer in Washington's absence.
Trade topped the agenda when Vice President Mike Pence holds talks with Japanese Deputy Prime Minister Taro Aso in Tokyo yesterday as part of a 10-day Asia tour. Pence focused on the prospect of a U.S.-Japan free trade agreement (FTA).
"We [the U.S.] are trying to offer them a poor man's TPP with this FTA idea, but I don't think Japan has any interest in pursuing that. They want to stick with ideas and principles that were hammered out in TPP," said King, specifically referring to intellectual property rights as well as market access.
"I think Taro Aso is just going to hear out Pence to be nice to Trump…I don't expect much to come out of these talks, it's going to be a bunch of niceties but no real deliverables."
Trump still has time to change his mind on TPP, King warned, noting that the treaty text remains valid until February 2018.
"Trump said [TPP] was a disaster, but I'm sure the other members would be willing to make concessions to get the U.S. back in, just like South Korea was willing to make concessions to Obama for his endorsement of the U.S.-Korea [free trade agreement]," King said.
"He's certainly made greater reversals and claimed victory. Why not do this for our friends who want to stand with us against countries like China and North Korea? I'm all for it."
We can only imagine the reaction in the rust-belt, after being told how distastrous TPP would be for US jobs, if Trump were to spin on this topic too.