Trump mulls rejoining Pacific trade pact

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His most hawkish trade advisers, who now dominate his cabinet after high-level departures, have expressed a strong preference for negotiating bilateral agreements, which they say play to U.S. advantages.

Trump first disclosed his request Thursday to a group of lawmakers at a White House meeting on trade.

President Donald Trump has reopened the possibility of USA involvement in the Trans-Pacific Partnership, reversing his earlier decision to walk away from the controversial trade pact that includes much of southeast Asia.

"It is good news that today the president directed Larry Kudlow and Ambassador Lighthizer to negotiate USA entry into TPP", Senator Ben Sasse, a pro-trade Republican, said in a statement after the meeting between Trump and the senators.

One of the White House officials said that while the president prefers negotiating bilateral trade deals, a multilateral deal with the TPP countries would counter Chinese competition and would be faster than negotiating one-on-one with each of the 11 other nations. Ben Sasse, R-Neb., said in a statement. Trump pulled the U.S. out of the pact in early 2017, citing concerns about jobs. He said the president has consistently "reaffirmed the idea that TPP would be easier for us to join now".

Donald Trump has deputized economic adviser Larry Kudlow and US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer to explore re-entering the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP).

The lawmakers were there advocating for the president to ease tariff-related strains on American farmers anxious about rising tensions between the United States and China, a top agricultural export market.

An agreement could be completed within a few weeks or five months, he said, adding "I don't care". One Democrat, Ohio Senator Sherrod Brown, said he was "very open to a new TPP" as long as it had strong labor rights protections and currency provisions.

Trump said Thursday "we're having some great discussions" with China and that he believes the outcome will be "tariffs off and the barriers down".

"Last year, the President kept his promise to end the TPP deal. because it was unfair to American workers and farmers", Deputy White House Press Secretary Lindsay Walters said in a statement.

Roberts said Kudlow and Lighthizer would be working with the Agriculture Committee, calling the move "certainly good news". "The way the deal was structured was awful If we did a substantially better deal, I would be open to TPP". He says that's shifting work to competitors outside the U.S.

And while President Xi Jinping hinted that he may be willing to concede of some of Trump's demands, US farmers remain on edge over worries of potential tariffs on American agricultural imports.

The EPA now bans the 15-percent blend, called E15, during the summer because of concerns that it contributes to smog on hot days. Farm state lawmakers have pushed for greater sales of the higher ethanol blend to boost demand for the corn-based fuel.

Trump said his conversation with Xi "made a big impact".

The meetings came as an array of business executives and trade groups expressed alarm to federal lawmakers Thursday about the impact that tariffs will have on their business. Still, there were some supporters, too.

Scott Paul, president of the Alliance for American Manufacturing, urged lawmakers and the administration to stay the course in getting tough on China.