[1/23/17] President Donald Trump will abruptly end the decades-old U.S. tilt toward free trade on Monday by signing executive orders to withdraw from an Asia-Pacific accord that was never ratified and to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement.
Trump’s trade-focused executive orders, part of a series of actions planned for Monday, fulfill a campaign promise to rewrite America’s trade policy during his first days as president. In declaring his determination to renegotiate Nafta, Trump will end an agreement that has governed commerce in much of the Western hemisphere for 22 years. By scrapping the Trans-Pacific Partnership accord negotiated by former President Barack Obama, Trump will delight many of his most fervent supporters as well as a good many Democrats, while opening an economic vacuum in Asia that China is eager to fill.
Neither move comes as a surprise. Trump campaigned against the TPP and other trade deals, including Nafta, during his campaign for the White House. In a video released in November, Trump promised to exit TPP “on day one,” calling it “a potential disaster for our country.”
The TPP, a 12-country deal that sought to liberalize trade between the U.S. and Pacific Rim nations including Japan, Mexico and Singapore, was a signature piece of former Obama’s attempt to pivot U.S. global strategy to focus on the fast-growing economies of Asia.
Trump said Sunday that he’ll meet with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto to begin discussing Nafta, which he has routinely blamed for the loss of U.S. jobs. The newly sworn-in president praised Mexico for being “terrific” and signaled that he’s willing to work with the U.S.’s closest neighbors.
“We’re going to start renegotiating on Nafta, on immigration, and on security at the border,” Trump said at the start of a swearing-in ceremony for top White House staff. “I think we’re going to have a very good result for Mexico, for the United States, for everybody involved. It’s really very important.”
Canada is the top trading partner of the U.S. and Mexico is third, after China.