It’s taken a year, but President Trump seems to have softened his stance on the United States’ participation in the Trans-Pacific Partnership.
Right in line with the remaining TPP 11 agreeing to terms of the deal and settling on signing it March 8, Trump has said he would reconsider joining the Asia-Pacific trade pact—on his terms.
“Somebody asked me the other day would I do TPP. Here’s my answer, I’ll give you a big story: I would do TPP if we made a much better deal than we had,” Trump told CNBC in an interview from the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland Thursday. “We had a horrible deal. The deal was a horrible deal.”
That horribleness was what led the president to make removing the U.S. from the TPP trade deal his first order of business when he took office last January, and all signs had pointed to a firm no on the question of the U.S. reentering the deal. U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer even said in May that the U.S. would only deal with trade on a bilateral basis. “The president made the decision [to exit TPP], which I certainly agree with, that bilateral negotiation is better for the United States than multilateral negotiations,” he said. “But we certainly expect to stay engaged and I believe that at some pint there’ll be a series of bilateral agreements with willing partners in this part of the world.”
Meeting the CNBC interviewer’s surprise at his seemingly shifted position, Trump followed by reiterating, “I would do TPP if we were able to make a substantially better deal, the deal was terrible, the way it was structured was terrible. If we did a substantially better deal I would be open to TPP.”
The president did not make mention of initiating talks on renegotiating TPP or reaching out to the remaining 11 nations to get back in the conversation.
But those left ready to sign what’s now called the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP), will continue on the trajectory of getting the deal done.
[Read more on the TPP 11 deal: 11 Nations to Sign Revived TPP Deal—Without the US]
Japan has said the deal will serve as a way to curb protectionism, and Canada’s International Trade Minister Francois-Philippe Champagne, said on Twitter Tuesday that he’s “thrilled” to announce agreement on the deal and that “Canada can and will work hard to set the terms of trade so the middle class can compete and win on the world stage.”
Adding its own sentiments, Singapore’s Ministry of Trade and Industry said in a statement, “This outcome reaffirms the CPTPP countries’ collective commitment toward greater trade liberalization and regional integration.”