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President Trump signs executive order to start to withdraw US from the Trans-Pacific Partnership

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WASHINGTON – President Donald Trump on Monday started to unravel the behemoth trade deal he inherited from his predecessor after signing an executive order to withdraw the United States from negotiating process of the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

That executive order will send signals to Democrats and leaders in foreign capitals around the world that Trump’s rhetoric on trade during the campaign is turning into action. Trump vowed during the campaign to withdraw the US from the Pacific trade deal, commonly known as TPP, which he argued was harmful to American workers and manufacturing.

The TPP was negotiated under former President Barack Obama, but never ratified by Congress, so withdrawing from it will not have an immediate, real effect on US economic policies, although it does signal a new and very different US outlook on trade under Trump.

The executive order on TPP is expected to be the first Trump will issue Monday, a senior White House official said, and will amount to the administration’s first major action on foreign policy.

RELATED: Obama pushes trade in Asia, but has 2016 killed the TPP?

Trump’s action comes as the President is looking to change the conversation after a rocky first weekend at the White House, during which, he and his officials feuded with the press and his presidency was greeted with massive protests in the nation’s capital and in large cities across the US.

The executive action will be just one part of the Trump administration’s efforts to focus attention on its plans to radically reshape US trade policies, making good on a central premise of Trump’s campaign and its economic nationalist underbelly.

Trump on Monday will also meet with union leaders and blue-collar workers several hours after signing the executive order, as well as separate meetings with business leaders.

As the Republican nominee, Trump railed against free trade agreements he argued were lopsided against the US and vowed to implement more protectionist trade policies as president, rallying voters to the polls with his “America First” slogan.

Trump has also threatened to impose trade tariffs as a way to revive American manufacturing and compel US companies not to take their manufacturing operations abroad.

Obama’s administration worked with the 11 countries that became signatories for more than two years to formulate the massive free trade deal that was set to reshape commerce throughout the Pacific Rim, triggering movement among multinational companies in the region at the same time. Trump’s election swiftly dealt a death knell — one formalized on Monday — to the deal, sending shockwaves in Asian capitals that had pinned their economic hopes on the deal.

Trump’s decision to withdraw the US from TPP is also a first step in the administration’s efforts to amass a governing coalition to push the new President’s agenda, one that includes the blue-collar workers who defected from Democrats and flocked to Trump’s candidacy in November.

On Monday, Sen. John McCain released a statement, criticizing the move.

“President Trump’s decision to formally withdraw from the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) is a serious mistake that will have lasting consequences for America’s economy and our strategic position in the Asia-Pacific region.

This decision will forfeit the opportunity to promote American exports, reduce trade barriers, open new markets and protect American invention and innovation. 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.

Abandoning TPP is the wrong decision. Moving forward, it is imperative that America advances a positive trade agenda in the Asia-Pacific that will keep American workers and companies competitive in one of the most economically vibrant and fastest-growing regions in the world.”

However, others in Washington expressed gratitude for the executive order.

“I am glad the Trans-Pacific Partnership is dead and gone. For the last 30 years, we have had a series of trade deals- including the North American Free Trade Agreement, permanent normal trade relations with China and others- which have cost us millions of decent-paying jobs and caused a ‘race to the bottom’ which has lowered wages for American workers. Now is the time to develop a new trade policy that helps working families, not just multi-national corporations. If President Trump is serious about a new policy to help American workers then I would be delighted to work with him,” a statement from Bernie Sanders read.

 

Trump has said that he also plans to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement, a free trade deal joining the US, Mexico and Canada.