Trump Considers, Then Backs Out of Rejoining TPP

The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) made headlines when Trump considered rejoining. Now, he’s backing out of it.

Following US president Donald Trumps position on various trade agreements has ultimately become a pointless thing to follow. One day, he warms to the idea of different trade agreements, the next, he’s telling the world what a terrible deal they are and will either back out and scrap it altogether. The wild mood swings is definitely prevalent during the NAFTA negotiations, but it came as a surprise when he decided to talk about the TPP.

Word first came out last week that Trump is considering rejoining the agreement late last week. The implications, of course, are that he is basically reversing on a campaign pledge as well as reversing his executive order he signed back in January pulling the US out. Still, that didn’t stop some media outlets from excitedly breaking the story that the president is contemplating the course reversal. From the CBC:

The president uncorked the news in a meeting with farm-state senators. Several senators confirmed that Trump instructed his advisers to explore U.S. entry into the TPP.

South Dakota Sen. John Thune described Trump as “bullish” on the idea. Nebraska Sen. Ben Sasse said the president mentioned it several times, telling Robert Lighthizer and Larry Kudlow to explore U.S. entry, even looking Kudlow in the eye and saying, “Go get it done.”

Sasse welcomed the news as a smarter way for the U.S. to be fighting unfair Chinese trade practices, like theft of intellectual property and over-production of steel.

“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 … Kudlow and … Lighthizer to negotiate U.S. entry into TPP.”

Naturally, not even a week later, Trump has reversed on his reversed decision and is now saying that he has no plans on rejoining the TPP. From CNBC:

After recently indicating he could consider rejoining the massive Pacific trade pact, President Donald Trump said he now doesn’t think the Trans-Pacific Partnership is good for the world’s largest economy.

Following Tuesday’s bilateral meeting with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe at the Trump-owned Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida, the U.S. leader took to Twitter to criticize the current TPP agreement, saying it had “too many contingencies and no way to get out.” He also expressed a preference for bilateral trade deals, calling them more “profitable.”

At this stage, it is unclear whether or not Trump will continue to waffle back and forth on his feelings towards the agreement just like NAFTA. Given past behaviour, you really can’t rule anything out.

One thing is for sure, Trump pulling the US out of TPP did improve things a fair bit. Since pulling out of the agreement, some of the most brutal copyright provisions have been stripped out. As per our own independent analysis, most of the provisions that would crack down on basic civil rights in the intellectual property chapter were stripped out.

Problems, of course, still remain. This includes the ratification of other Internet treaties that contain anti-circumvention provisions, increasing the length of copyright terms, and potentially exposing domain name holders to spammers and abuse by unmasking their identities in the DNS directory.

In addition to this is the retention of the notorious InterState Dispute Settlement (ISDS) provisions which would allow corporations to sue governments should regulation get in the way of profits or future potential profits. As such, nothing is ever completely off the table.

At this point, unless Trump actually signs onto something that allows the US to rejoin the TPP, a lot of these musings from the president will be just that, random musings.

Drew Wilson on Twitter: @icecube85 and Google+.

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