On Monday, January 23, President Donald Trump signed a memorandum formally withdrawing the United States from the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement, following up on one of his biggest campaign promises.
The memorandum directs the U.S. Trade Representative to notify the other TPP parties and the Depository of the TPP that the United States will be withdrawing its signature from the agreement and exiting from the broader negotiating process. President Trump also pledges that his administration will work with individual countries to negotiate bilateral trade deals in the future, and he directs the U.S. Trade Representative “to begin pursuing, wherever possible, bilateral trade negotiations to promote American industry, protect American workers, and raise American wages.”
Under the TPP’s own ratification provisions, the agreement as it currently stands cannot enter into force without the United States. However, the Trump Administration could use the final TPP text as a starting point for future bilateral trade negotiations or for its expected efforts to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). Furthermore, the remaining TPP countries could pursue another plurilateral agreement that does not include the US.
House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Kevin Brady (R-Texas) and Trade Subcommittee Chairman Dave Reichert (R-Washington) released statements on President Trump’s memorandum acknowledging the TPP agreement’s weaknesses but urging the Trump Administration continue to prioritize U.S. trade with the Asia-Pacific region. Senate Finance Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) issued a similarly measured statement, stating “We all want effective ways to keep jobs here at home and increase American paychecks. I share the President’s commitment to negotiating the strongest trade agreements for the American people,” and “I will carefully review this action in its entirety to have a full understanding of its impact. I look forward to working with my colleagues and the new administration to advance strong trade policies that will enhance America’s global competitiveness and increase access to new, international markets.”
President Trump may issue a separate document regarding the United States’ intent to renegotiate NAFTA as early as this week. In his first official press briefing, however, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer suggested the Trump Administration may be able pursue NAFTA renegotiation without issuing any formal Executive Order. Spicer also confirmed that President Trump has already spoken to Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau about his desire to renegotiate the deal.