Yes, they probably would. But only if the United States joined the trade pact under existing rules, and put aside any insistence of a big revamp that would undo years of tedious work.
Here’s the background: President Trump trashed the Trans-Pacific Partnership as a presidential candidate, calling it a “disaster,” and worse. Back then, Trump railed against anything that reeked of globalism, sensing, correctly, that a significant block of voters would reward this populist tack.
As president, however, Trump is looking for ways to gain economic leverage against China, as a way to win concessions allowing deeper penetration of American goods and services into the Chinese market. And Trump seems to have discovered that the TPP is, or was, one possible source of leverage. And on April 13, news leaked that Trump had asked his advisors to look into rejoining the deal, surprising investors who had grown accustomed to Trump’s economic nationalism.
The TPP—now transmogrified into the even wordier Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership, or CPTPP (sorry!)—is a trade bloc consisting of 11 nations meant as an Asian counterweight to China’s growing heft. Its members—which include Japan, Australia, Canada, Mexico and other US allies—trade with each other, enjoying reduced barriers meant to boost economic activity in all directions.
Trump, of course, doesn’t like multilateral trade agreements, preferring one-on-one deals instead. But the other members of the TPP—sorry, the CPTPP—are just fine with the multilateral approach.
But a few days after reconsidering the TPP, Trump reversed his reversal. “I don’t like the deal,” Trump tweeted on April 17. “Too many contingencies.”
The CPTPP went into effect earlier this year, and more countries, such as South Korea and the United Kingdom, are considering joining. So there might be an opportunity for America yet. All it may take is a president to make up his mind.
Rick Newman is the author of four books, including Rebounders: How Winners Pivot from Setback to Success. Follow him on Twitter: @rickjnewman