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Trump Directs Top Trade Advisors to Look at Re-entering TPP Talks

Now that the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (formerly known as the TPP) has officially been signed without the U.S., President Trump has directed his trade advisors to take another look the deal as he mulls re-entry.

On Thursday, senator Ben Sasse (R-Nebraska), said Trump is reconsidering TPP, and doing it amid the brewing trade war with China may be one solution to curbing the Asian powerhouse’s “unfair” trade behavior.

“The best thing the United States can do to push back against Chinese cheating now is to lead the other eleven Pacific nations that believe in free trade and the rule of law,” Sasse said in a statement. “It is good news that today the president directed Larry Kudlow and Ambassador Lighthizer to negotiate U.S. entry into TPP.”

Some have said the potential change of heart may be more about a play to address issues with China and to counter Chinese competition, rather than a belief that the multilateral trade deal would be a good move for the U.S. economy.

The move marks a 180 from Trump’s formerly firm stance on TPP as being “the worst trade deal maybe ever signed anywhere,” which is what drove the president to make pulling the U.S. from the trade deal his first order of business when he took office last January.

In remarks following a meeting with the president, Sasse said the talk of TPP was the biggest news to emerge from the meeting, with Trump noting that he’s “deputizing” Kudlow and Lighthizer to consider re-entering negotiations on TPP.

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“The president, multiple times, reaffirmed in general to all of us and looked right at Larry Kudlow and said: ‘Larry, go get it done,’” Sasse told the press of what transpired in the meeting.

It isn’t the first time Trump has mentioned the thought since disentangling the U.S. from the deal. The sentiment is similar to one the president shared in January in line with the remaining 11 TPP nations agreeing to terms of a deal and settling on a date to sign it. Since then, there’s been no follow up or action on the reconsideration.

If this time things are different, the TPP trade deal could face another robust round of talks as Trump has been clear that U.S. participation would be conditional on negotiating a much “better deal.”

Late Thursday night, Trump said on Twitter, “Would only join TPP if the deal were substantially better than the deal offered to Pres. Obama. We already have BILATERAL deals with six of the eleven nations in TPP, and are working on make a deal with the biggest of those nations, Japan, who has hit us hard on trade for years!”

The remaining TPP nations already signed onto the U.S.-excluded CPTPP have reportedly welcomed U.S. reentry, but they appear to be open to major renegotiations.

“We welcome the U.S. coming back to the table but I don’t see any wholesale appetite for any material re-negotiation of the TPP-11,” Australia trade minister Steven Ciobo told Bloomberg Friday.