Make us your home page

First Trump trade casualty: TPP

During his campaign, Donald Trump tapped into voters’ economic anxiety and blamed free trade deals for harming American manufacturing workers.

During his campaign, Donald Trump tapped into voters’ economic anxiety and blamed free trade deals for harming American manufacturing workers.

WASHINGTON — President-elect Donald Trump's pledge to upend U.S. trade policy is claiming its first casualty, as Republican leaders in Congress have closed the door on the Obama administration's hopes for last-minute ratification of an expansive Pacific Rim trade accord before the president leaves office.

GOP lawmakers had publicly expressed skepticism about the future of the 12-nation Trans-Pacific Partnership ahead of a presidential election in which both major candidates opposed the deal. But staff level conversations between the White House and Congress had continued behind the scenes to prepare for a potential vote during the lame duck congressional session that could begin next week.

Those conversations have halted since Trump's upset victory over Democrat Hillary Clinton, according to officials involved in the process. The prospect of House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., moving forward over Trump's objections to the largest regional trade and regulatory deal in history is viewed as a non-starter among free trade proponents.

The TPP's collapse denies President Barack Obama the economic cornerstone of his administration's attempt to rebalance the nation's foreign policy attention toward Asia as a hedge to China's growing economic and military clout. The accord was viewed as a test of U.S. leadership in the region, and Obama will face disappointed leaders of other TPP countries next week at the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in Peru.

Administration officials said they are not abandoning the deal and emphasized that Obama will continue to talk about the economic and strategic benefit. But Chinese officials are expected to use the Peru forum to tout their own Asian trade deal that does not include the United States.

"We have worked closely with Congress to resolve outstanding issues and are ready to move forward, but this is a legislative process and it's up to congressional leaders as to whether and when this moves forward," said Matthew McAlvanah, spokesman for U.S. trade representative Michael Froman.

White House press secretary Josh Earnest said Obama and McConnell spoke after the election about the priorities for the lame duck session. He did not say whether TPP remained on the table, adding only that Obama "does continue to believe that this is the best opportunity that the Congress has to take advantage of the benefits of a Trans-Pacific Partnership."

The bigger question is whether the demise of TPP marks the beginning of a radical reinvention of the United States' positioning in the global economy under Trump. During his campaign, Trump tapped into voters' economic anxiety and blamed free trade deals for harming American manufacturing workers. He vowed to rip up long-standing accords, including the North American Free Trade Agreement signed in 1994, and impose double-digits tariffs on China and Mexico.

"The electorate that President-elect Trump was able to successfully tap into is one that feels a tremendous amount of economic uncertainty. And much of that they're blaming on the forces of globalization, fairly or not," said Chad Bown, senior fellow at the Peterson Institute for International Economic. "TPP got caught up in that."

In addition, Trump has said he would label China a currency manipulator on his first day in office — a move that some experts have cautioned could be the first step in igniting a trade war with damaging ramifications for the U.S. economy.

Even a modest duties increase on Chinese and Mexican imports could have consequences. A Barclays report estimated that 15 and 7 percent tariffs on China and Mexico, respectively, would shave about half a percentage point from growth next year.

In an interview, Trump economic adviser Judy Shelton, co-director of the Sound Money Project, argued that addressing currency manipulation could actually help facilitate international trade by forcing countries to adhere to the same standards.

"It doesn't mean you're a protectionist," she said. "Currency depreciation is not competing. It's cheating."

David Adelman, a former U.S. ambassador to Singapore, a TPP-member nation, said that long-standing U.S. support for multilateral free trade accords could be tested under Trump.

"The conversation has shifted from the viability of the TPP to whether there will be a disruption of the existing rules governing trans-Pacific trade and investment," said Adelman.

First Trump trade casualty: TPP 11/11/16 [Last modified: Friday, November 11, 2016 6:47pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Report slams Pinellas construction licensing agency and leaders

    Local Government

    LARGO — The Pinellas County Construction Licensing Board mismanaged its finances, lacked accountability and disregarded its own rules, according to a scathing report released Wednesday by the county's inspector general.

    Rodney Fischer, the executive director of the Pinellas County Construction Licensing Board, resigned in January.  [SCOTT KEELER   |   Times]
  2. A meatless burger that tastes like meat? Ciccio Restaurants will serve the Impossible Burger.

    Food & Dining

    TAMPA — The most red-hot hamburger in the nation right now contains no meat.

    Ciccio executive chef Luis Flores prepares an Impossible Burger Wednesday at the Epicurean Hotel Food Theatre in Tampa.
  3. Construction starts on USF medical school, the first piece of Tampa's Water Street project


    TAMPA — Dozens of workers in hard hats and boots were busy at work at the corner of South Meridian Avenue and Channelside Drive Wednesday morning, signaling the start of construction on the University of South Florida's new Morsani College of Medicine and Heart Institute.

    Construction is underway for the new Morsani College of Medicine and USF Health Heart Institute in downtown Tampa. This view is from atop Amalie Arena, where local officials gathered Wednesday to celebrate the first piece of what will be the new Water Street District. The USF building is expected to open in late 2019. [ALESSANDRA DA PRA  |   Times]
  4. Tampa Bay among top 25 metro areas with fastest growing economies

    Economic Development

    Tampa Bay had the 24th fastest growing economy among 382 metro areas in the country for 2016. According to an analysis by the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis, Tampa Bay's gross domestic product, or GDP, increased 4.2 percent from 2015 to 2016 to hit $126.2 billion.

    Tampa Bay had the 24th fastest growing economy in the country for 2016. Rentals were one of the areas that contributed to Tampa Bay's GDP growth. Pictured is attorney David Eaton in front of his rental home. 
  5. Tampa Bay cools down to more moderate home price increases

    Real Estate

    The increase in home prices throughout much of the Tampa Bay area is definitely slowing from the torrid rate a year ago.

    This home close to Bayshore Boulevard in Tampa sold for $3.055 million in August, making it Hillsborough County's top sale of the month. [Courtesy of Bredt Cobitz]