Trump just woke up to the complexities of international trade. And how to push China into a corner. In the middle of his trade war with China, he has suddenly caught on to the TPP, the Trans-Pacific Trade Partnership: a clever way for the US to boost trade among Pacific-rim countries while excluding China.

In the middle of the night, this stunning mea culpa was tweeted out:

Well, only half a mea culpa. As usual, it’s Obama’s fault, and he “would only join TPP if the deal were substantially better than the deal offered to Pres. Obama.”

He may feel he has saved face, but in practice, this signals a major reversal in Trumpian trade policies. For once, he’d be joining an international treaty and not trying to pull it down.

And that is huge. Good for him to be able to backtrack.


The damage done by pulling out of the original TPP proposal is also huge. Consider how different the situation is today from what it was in Obama’s days.

Back then, the TPP was not “offered” to the US, it was the work of Obama’s trade team. They had been the ones pushing it, and Pacific rim countries were often reluctant to go along. Even the US was reluctant, there was considerable push back from Democrats in Congress. There were serious issues of transparency (or lack of it).

And there was at least one additional very good reason for this reluctance: The deal Obama offered to Japan et al. had some sharp edges to it that countries didn’t like. Among them, the controversial Investor-State Dispute Settlement mechanism that gave American investors the possibility, in case of litigation, to have recourse to independent courts, beyond the borders of participating countries. That protected American business interests at the expense of participating countries’ sovereignty.

Since Trump pulled out of the TPP, the other Pacific-rim countries joined together in a revised version minus the US and signed the treaty in March (covering a market of nearly 500 million people despite the US pullout). Remarkably, the treaty still contained the Investor-State Dispute Settlement mechanism, presumably in a version they can live with.

Now the US, if it wants to get back in, is in a much weaker negotiating position: It is facing a treaty signed by 11 countries and if there’s something it doesn’t like in it, the Trump trade team will have to work hard to try and pull it back to suit its own needs (and those of American business).

That won’t be easy. And the end result is not likely to be anywhere as good as the TPP proposed by Obama. But it was a commendable step in the right direction. Then he blew it a few hours later.


He blew it with an extraordinary blast at former FBI Director James Comey who’s just come out with a “devastating tell-all” book:

And of course, Trump is happy he’s done what he’s best known for, firing people:

Back to his “you’re fired” persona, that’s what he’s best at…But how presidential is that?

UPDATE: Joining the trade pact against China clearly does not appear to rank high for Trump. A few days later (18 April) he practically retracted himself with another tweet:

Trump plays with policy ideas like ping pong…And shares every ping and pong that runs through his head on Twitter. Very odd.

NOTE: THE OPINIONS EXPRESSED HERE BY IMPAKTER.COM COLUMNISTS ARE THEIR OWN, NOT THOSE OF IMPAKTER.COM.   Featured Image CreditSecrecy Over TPP Fuels Growing Opposition in Congress  This Photo by Unknown Author is licensed under CC BY
About the Author /

Claude Forthomme is a writer and an economist. A graduate of Columbia University, Claude held a variety of jobs before starting a 25-year career at the United Nations (Food and Agriculture), ending as Regional Representative for Europe and Central Asia. She authored many fiction books under various pen names in both English and Italian; she is considered a prime exponent of Boomer literature and has founded the Boomer Lit Group on Goodreads. Her poetry has been included in "Freeze Frame", an international poetry anthology curated by British poet Oscar Sparrow (Gallo Romano Media, 2012).

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