Tuesday, July 16

Trump withdraws from Trans-Pacific Partnership amid flurry of orders



Donald Trump has begun his effort to dismantle Barack Obama’s legacy, formally scrapping a flagship trade deal with 11 countries in the Pacific rim.

The new president also signed executive orders to ban funding for international groups that provide abortions, and placing a hiring freeze on non-military federal workers.

Trump’s decision not to join the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) came as little surprise. During his election campaign he railed against international trade deals, blaming them for job losses and focusing anger in the industrial heartland. Obama had argued that this deal would provide an effective counterweight to China in the region.

“Everyone knows what that means, right?” Trump said at Monday’s signing ceremony in the White House. “We’ve been talking about this for a long time. It’s a great thing for the American worker.”

The TPP was never ratified by the Republican-controlled Congress, but several Asian leaders had invested substantial political capital in it. Their countries represent roughly 13.5% of the global economy, according to the World Bank.

Trump’s election opponent, the Democrat Hillary Clinton, had also spoken out against the TPP.

The move also intensified speculation over the future of the 17-year-old North American Free Trade Agreement (Nafta). There were reports that Trump would sign an executive order on Monday to begin renegotiating terms with Canada and Mexico.

He did move to reinstate a ban on providing federal money to international non-government organizations that perform abortions or provide information about them. The policy also prohibits taxpayer funding for groups that lobby to legalize abortion or promote it as a family planning method.

Republican administrations have tended to institute such a ban while Democrats have reversed it, most recently President Obama in 2009.

Trump signed it one day after the anniversary of the supreme court’s 1973 Roe v Wade decision that legalized abortion in the US. Activists fear that the precedent is now under threat.

“No US funds can be or have been used to perform or promote abortion services overseas since 1973. The fact is that President Trump’s shameful decision to reinstate the global gag rule will cause more unintended pregnancies, more maternal complications and injuries, less information about HIV/Aids prevention and treatment and more – not fewer – abortions.”Nancy Pelosi, Democratic minority leader in the Senate, said: “Now, foreign non-governmental organisations will be forced to give women incomplete medical information, advice and care in order to participate in US-supported programs abroad. When last in place, the global gag rule had the effect of decreasing access to family planning services around the world. Study after study shows that when women have increased access to family planning services and supplies, such as contraceptives, the incidence of abortion decreases.

Republican congressman Michael Burgess, who chairs the House’s health subcommittee, welcomed the move. “Life is a precious and sacred gift, and we must do all we can to protect it,” he said. “I applaud President Trump for taking this important action and look forward to continuing to work together in advancing pro-life policies and protecting taxpayer dollars.”

“We want to bring manufacturing back to our country,” the president said. “It’s one of the reasons I’m sitting here instead of somebody else sitting here.”Earlier, Trump met a group of top business leaders including Elon Musk, the head of SpaceX, and the executives from Dell, Johnson & Johnson and Lockheed Martin. He set out plans to cut regulations for businesses in the US and slash the company tax rate from 35% “down to anywhere from 15 to 20%”.

He added: “We want to start making our products again. We don’t want to bring them in; we want to make them here. That doesn’t mean we don’t trade because we do trade, but we want to make our products here.

“If you look at some of the original great people that ran this country, you will see that they felt very strongly about that.”

He said companies that moved factories out of the US and then tried to sell their products back to America would be punished with a “very major border tax”.

Since winning last November’s election, Trump has singled out and threatened to impose tariffs on US companies that move production to Mexico. Trump has been accused of hypocrisy because many of his business’s own products are manufactured overseas.

On Monday, he promised: “There will be advantages to companies that do indeed make their products here. It’s going to be a wave. You watch, it’s going to be a wave.”

Andrew Liveris, the chief executive of Dow Chemical, told the Associated Press that Trump had given them 30 days to come up with a plan to help stimulate the US manufacturing sector.

In his bleak inaugural address on Friday, Trump described “rusted-out factories scattered like tombstones across the landscape of our nation” and pledged to boost US industries over those abroad. Critics argue that some trends, such as the automation of factories, are irreversible.

As his new administration continued its breakneck speed, Trump was schedule to speak with the Egyptian president, Abdel Fatah al-Sisi, on Monday.

The new president has a meeting with union leaders and workers in the afternoon, followed by a reception with members of Congress and a meeting with the House speaker, Paul Ryan. His controversial press secretary, Sean Spicer, will also hold a media briefing.

A Senate committee is set to vote on Trump’s nominee for secretary of state, Rex Tillerson, the former head of ExxonMobil. Marco Rubio, a senator for Florida who had clashed with Tillerson at a committee hearing earlier this month, said on Monday: “Despite my reservations, I will support Mr Tillerson’s nomination in committee and in the full Senate,” making it likely the nomination will pass.

The White House is seeking to recover from a rocky opening weekend in which Trump was criticised for using a CIA appearance to boast about his inauguration crowds and attack the media, and Spicer presented false information at his first press briefing.

Ryan issued a statement applauding Trump’s first executive actions. “President Trump is wasting no time acting on his promises,” he said. “Already, he has laid the groundwork to protect Americans struggling under Obamacare. He has renewed President Reagan’s policy to ensure American taxpayers are not forced to subsidize abortions anywhere in the world. He has followed through on his promise to insist on better trade agreements.

“And by instituting a hiring freeze, he has taken a critical first step toward reining in Washington bureaucracy. We look forward to working with the president to build on these actions and deliver results for the people.”

Ryan was a vocal advocate of the TPP, lending the trade pact support from the highest-ranking Republican in the nation under Obama. But he later accused the administration of negotiating an agreement that lacked sufficient support from members of Congress, while explaining his decision not to bring the TPP up for a vote in the lame-duck session prior to Obama’s departure from the White House.

But some Republicans criticised Trump’s move to formally withdraw from the TPP. Senator John McCain, chairman of the Senate armed services committee, described it as a “serious mistake” with long-term consequences. “This decision will forfeit the opportunity to promote American exports, reduce trade barriers, open new markets, and protect American invention and innovation,” he said.

“It will create an opening for China to rewrite the economic rules of the road at the expense of American workers. And it will send a troubling signal of American disengagement in the Asia-Pacific region at a time we can least afford it.”

Like Trump, Democratic presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders had attacked TPP on the campaign trail, and on Monday he praised Trump’s decision, saying TPP is “dead and gone”.

“Now is the time to develop a new trade policy that helps working families, not just multinational corporations,” Sanders said in a statement. “If President Trump is serious about a new policy to help American workers then I would be delighted to work with him.

“For the past 30 years, we have had a series of trade deals … which have cost us millions of decent-paying jobs and caused a ‘race to the bottom’ which has lowered wages for American workers,” he said.

Daniel Ikenson, director of the Herbert A Stiefel Center for Trade Policy Studies, said the US was now becoming “more protectionist than at any point since the Hoover administration”.