So now Trump, having bashed the Trans-Pacific Partnership as a wrongheaded product of the despised Barack Obama, wants to join it after all. Or maybe he doesn’t.
The TPP was a lousy deal. It was mainly about helping big U.S. multinationals, and did little or nothing for labor and environmental rights. And despite the latter-day spin about the TPP containing China, it did nothing to restrain China’s predatory trade practices. Further, the United States already has trade deals with all of the major member countries of the TPP.
But the large farm lobby and its allies in Congress have been putting pressure on Trump to back off the trade-war talk, and TPP is emblem of a more establishment sort of trade agenda. Based on past behavior, we have no idea whether Trump will change course. He says whatever pops into his head based on the issue du jour.
This, of course, drives his advisers crazy. There is a serious schism between the trade hawks—led by U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, and economic adviser Peter Navarro—and the traditional globalists around Trump, now including economic chief Larry Kudlow, Treasury Secretary (and Goldman man) Steve Mnuchin, plus Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue.
It’s impossible for Trump to split the difference on this. He will either seek to get the United States into TPP or he won’t.
Let’s take a moment to give thanks for Trump’s incoherence and incompetence. A competent demagogue could have done so much more damage.