U.S. May Consider Negotiating with TPP Countries, Trump Says
President Trump said last week at the World Economic Forum in Switzerland that the U.S. would consider negotiating a free trade agreement with those Trans-Pacific Partnership countries with which it does not already have FTAs, “either individually, or perhaps as a group, if it is in the interests of all.” Similarly, Trump said in a CNBC interview that he would consider joining TPP “if we were able to make a substantially better deal.”
Trump withdrew the U.S. from the TPP just days after his inauguration last year and has consistently expressed a preference for bilateral FTAs. Somewhat unexpectedly, the 11 other TPP countries reworked the agreement to reflect the U.S. departure, suspending 20 sections that could be reinstated should the U.S. ever rejoin and making various other changes. The revamped agreement, now called the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership, is expected to be signed March 8 in Chile.
Press reports indicate that while the other TPP members would be interested in having the U.S. participate, they may not be willing to accept the significant changes the Trump administration would likely demand. “I can't see wholesale change to” the TPP as it now stands “to accommodate the Americans,” an Inside US Trade article quoted Australian trade minister Steven Ciobo as saying. “We want the U.S. back, but we need to be realistic about what can be achieved.”