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Trump asks U.S. trade officials to look into joining Trans-Pacific Partnership

Trump asks U.S. trade officials to look into joining Trans-Pacific Partnership
From CBC - April 12, 2018

U.S. President Donald Trump has asked trade officials to explore the possibility of the United States rejoining negotiations on the Pacific Rim agreement after he pulled out last year as part of his "America first" agenda.

Farm-state lawmakers said Thursday after a White House meeting with Trump that he had given that assignment to his trade representative, Robert Lighthizer, and his new chief economic adviser, Larry Kudlow. The Trans-Pacific Partnership would open more overseas markets for American farmers.

"I am sure there are lots of particulars that they'd want to negotiate, but the president multiple times reaffirmed in general to all of us and looked right at Larry Kudlow and said, 'Larry, go get it done,"' Republican Sen. Ben Sasseof Nebraska said.

Eleven countries signed the agreement last month. Trump's rejection of the deal has rattled allies and raised questions at home about whether protectionism will impede U.S. economic growth.

Kansas Sen. Pat Roberts, the chairman of the Senate agriculture, nutrition and forestry committee, said he was "very impressed" that Trump had assigned Kudlow and Lighthizer "the task to see if we could not take another look at TPP. And that certainly would be good news all throughout farm country."

The president weighed in himself late Thursday night on Twitter.

The discussions came during a meeting in which Trump told farm-state governors and lawmakers that he was pressing China to treat the American agriculture industry fairly. Midwest farmers fear becoming caught up in a trade war as Beijing threatens to impose tariffs on soybeans and other U.S. crops, a big blow to Midwestern farmers, many of whom are strong Trump supporters.

'The deal was terrible'

Trump has mused about re-joining TPP negotiations in the past but his request to his top aides shows a greater level of interest in rejoining the pact he railed against during his 2016 campaign.

During a February news conference with Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, Trump raised the possibility of rejoining TPP if the negotiators offered more favourable terms. In a CNBC interview in January, Trump said, "I would do TPP if we were able to make a substantially better deal. The deal was terrible."

The White House meeting was aimed at appealing to the Midwest lawmakers at a time of high anxiety because of the China trade dispute.

During the exchange, Trump suggested the possibility of directing the Environmental Protection Agency to allow year-round sales of renewable fuel with blends of 15 per cent ethanol.

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