Is a Revival of U.S. Inclusion in TPP a Possibility?

Several news sources indicated last week that President Trump was again looking at the possibility of U.S. participation in what was formerly called the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP).

The National Pork Producers Council said that in a meeting held at the White House last week, “President Trump directed U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and National Economic Council Director Larry Kudlow to explore the prospect of rejoining the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP).”

This move is strongly supported by NPPC, and by U.S. pork producers. To be able to buy and sell products to the countries that are part of this agreement would have been a huge win for U.S. animal agriculture.

President Trump withdrew from TPP last January shortly after assuming office, as he - and Hillary Clinton - had promised they would after election.

“Under the terms of the agreement, TPP would have eliminated tariff and non-tariff barriers on U.S. pork exports to 11 Asia-Pacific countries, including Japan, the U.S. pork industry’s No. 1 foreign market,” said NPPC in its Capitol Report last Friday. “The Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) – the new TPP – was signed in February by the remaining 11 Pacific-Rim nations, without the United States.”

A Reuters article last week stated “White House spokesman Lindsay Walters said Mr. Trump has asked his trade advisers to look at rejoining the [CPTPP], after Washington's withdrawal in January 2017.”

However, the deal would have to be “substantially better” than what had been offered to the previous administration, President Trump said in a tweet last week.

"It took until late 2016 for the then-Obama administration to abandon its attempt to push the pact through Congress,” Reuters said.

When policymakers in the Asia-Pacific region were interviewed after President Trump's announcement, they were skeptical about the possibility of negotiations being reopened.

“If it’s true, I would welcome it,” Japanese Finance Minister Taro Aso told reporters after a cabinet meeting on Friday, reported Reuters. Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Trunbull told Reuters “it would be ‘great’ to have the U.S. back in the pact, though doubted it would happen.”

Some of the countries in the CPTPP, like Australia, are unlikely to welcome the U.S. into the pact, seeing as how they’re benefiting from the preferential trade posture. They aren't that unhappy that the U.S. isn't part of the agreement.

Seeing as how the President’s tweets and opinions change on a daily basis, only time will tell if this is a serious consideration or just a passing thought. U.S. pork producers would welcome a reevaluation of potential involvement in the agreement, as would animal agriculture in general.

In the meantime, the North American Free Trade Agreement is still pending, and in terms of trade for pork producers, it’s the bigger fish to fry, and shows more potential of becoming a reality.