Donald Trump’s withdrawal of the United States from the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal could hit states hard that are highly dependent on trade with Asia, primarily on the West Coast.
In announcing his move Monday, Trump said he was taking the step to protect American jobs. But a variety of groups disputed that.
The Seattle-based Washington Council on International Trade said TPP could have created as many as 26,000 additional jobs across the state, with exports rising for everything from apples to salmon to wheat to countries such as Japan and Vietnam. Lori Otto Punke, president of the Washington trade council, called it “a shame to let go of all those benefits.”
Agricultural associations also criticized the move, with farmers from states as diverse as Illinois, Kansas and North Carolina disagreeing with the decision.
“Kansas industries are export dependent, particularly agriculture,” said Rep. Roger Marshall, a Kansas Republican. “At these times of record commodity surpluses and low prices, our growers can’t afford to miss opportunities to reach the 95 percent of the world’s consumers that live outside of our country.”
“We export more than half the soy we grow here in the United States,” said Ron Moore, who farms in Roseville, Illinois, and serves as president of the American Soybean Association. “The TPP held great promise for us.”
Larry Wooten, president of the North Carolina Farmers Bureau, said he was all for the “America first” agenda Trump outlined in his inaugural address, but that undercutting North Carolina’s exports of pork, poultry, tobacco, Christmas trees and sweet potatoes seemed to contradict it.
“If there is action that harms American agriculture, that is not putting America first,” he said.
Isaac Stone Fish, senior fellow at the Center on U.S.-China Relations at Asia Society, said canceling U.S. participation in the massive 12-nation deal that would have set new rules for 40 percent of the global economy serves only to give China the upper hand in global business. China is not a signatory to the TPP.
“For someone who is so outwardly anti-China, many of Trump’s major policies, philosophies, and plans benefit China,” Fish said.
The Business Roundtable, a pro-trade group, made a similar point in its statement on the action. “The fact that our major foreign competitors – China and the European Union – are moving forward with their own trade agreements in the Asia-Pacific will make it even more difficult for the United States to compete,” it said.
But important labor leaders and groups normally identified with liberal policies endorsed Trump’s action. Teamsters President James Hoffa called Trump’s move a first step toward fixing 30 years of bad U.S. trade policies, and Michael Brune, the executive director of the Sierra Club, said credit for scrapping the deal really belongs to millions of Americans who rejected global trade policies.
“The era of corporate trade is ending,” he said.
Trump long ago telegraphed his plan to pull out of the trade deal, a position so well known that he felt no need to explain to reporters gathered to watch him sign the withdrawal order. “We’ve been talking about this for a long time,” he said, adding the withdrawal was a “great thing for the American worker.”
Later, at the new administration’s first formal press briefing, press secretary Sean Spicer said Trump was ushering in a new era of trade policy that would focus on bilateral, not multilateral, trade agreements that are more beneficial to the United States.
“When you enter into these multinational agreements, you’re allowing any country, no matter the size . . . to basically have the same stature as the United States in the agreement,” Spicer said. “So we’re basically on par with some very small (countries) who are getting access to an amazing market, the United States.”
Pennsylvania Democratic Sen. Bob Casey, who represents a state that Trump won with his anti-trade message, said he supported the president’s decision, noting that seven of the TPP countries had minimum wages below $3 an hour. “It would be unfair to force Pennsylvania workers to compete for those jobs,” Casey said.
Pro-trade groups, however, said the cancellation of TPP would also mean higher prices for everyday products that are no longer manufactured in the United States.
“Many of these essentials are no longer made in the U.S. – or if made here, are neither as cheap nor as good in quality as those from abroad,” said Claude Barfield, a former consultant to the United State Trade Representative. Barfield warned of “lost imports that could supply needed life necessities for the people he pledged to help in the Rust Belt.”
Arthur Stamoulis, executive director of the Citizens Trade Campaign, a coalition of farm, labor, environmental, consumer and human rights groups, said the cancellation of TPP indicates Trump wants “a blank slate on trade.”
“The question is how is he going to fill the slate,” Stamoulis said.
Anna Douglas and Lindsay Wise contributed to this article.