WASHINGTON - President Donald Trump’s administration is actively discussing the possibility of rejoining the Trans-Pacific Partnership free trade deal on condition that the United States renegotiate it to secure better terms, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said Thursday.
Citing Trump’s suggestion last month in Davos, Switzerland, that he will consider rejoining the TPP if the United States is able to strike a “substantially better deal,” Mnuchin said, “The president’s priority is bilateral, but I think he is open-minded.”
“In Davos, he commented that if we could renegotiate the TPP, he would consider going into multilateral,” Mnuchin said in a congressional hearing. “And we are in active discussions.”
“I assure you we are in active discussions on enhancing our ability for exports and creating more fair trade for American companies,” he told the House Ways and Means Committee.
However, Japan and the 10 other remaining TPP signatories are reluctant to renegotiate the deal they sealed with the administration of Trump’s predecessor, President Barack Obama.
The 11 members have agreed to promote a revised version of the TPP without the United States — the so-called TPP 11 — and the participating nations are planning to sign the new pact on March 8 in Chile with an eye on bringing it into force next year.
Mnuchin said he is actively involved in trade negotiations, including a possible return to the TPP, and that he is meeting weekly with U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and other members of the Trump administration’s economic team.
Soon after taking office in January last year, Trump withdrew the United States from the TPP, then a 12-nation free trade agreement, saying the pact would take away American jobs.