President Donald Trump said he would consider rejoining the Trans-Pacific Partnership if the U.S. could negotiate more favorable terms.
“TPP was a very bad deal for the United States. There’s a possibility we would be going in” if offered better terms, Trump said at a news conference with Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull on Friday at the White House.
Turnbull was expected to encourage Trump privately to renew talks on a Pacific trade pact. The U.S. has adopted protectionist trade policies since Trump took office on a nationalist “America First” campaign.
Trump said he prefers “bilateral deals” to multi-nation agreements like the TPP, and pointed to a pact with Australia as an example. The two countries’ “reciprocal trading relationship is a model for other countries,” he said.
A group of 25 Republican senators sent Trump a letter on Friday asking him to “re-engage with the Trans-Pacific Partnership.” Trump withdrew the U.S. from the 12-nation free trade pact during his first week in office. Earlier this year, the remaining nations announced they struck an alternative agreement without the United States.
“We encourage you to work aggressively to secure reforms that would allow the United States to join the agreement,” the senators wrote. “Increased economic engagement with the 11 nations currently in TPP has the potential to substantially improve the competitiveness of U.S. businesses, support millions of U.S. jobs, increase U.S. exports, increase wages, fully unleash America’s energy potential, and benefit consumers.”
Advocates also regarded the agreement as a strategic counterweight to China. Former President Barack Obama’s defense secretary, Ashton Carter, once said he’d prefer the trade pact over another carrier battle group.
The meeting also follows the U.S. Commerce department making public its recommendation that the administration impose new tariffs and quotas on steel and aluminum, in actions that could spark a trade war with China.