President Donald Trump reportedly asked top administration officials on Thursday to look into rejoining the Trans-Pacific Partnership, only to make it sound like the prospect was unlikely hours later.
He made the request to Larry Kudlow, his new National Economic Council director, and U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer, after meeting with Republican lawmakers and governors from agricultural states, The New York Times reported. They said they were worried about farmers being negatively affected by the added tariffs that the Trump administration has threatened to place on several countries in the pact, including China, Japan, Canada and Mexico.
Shortly before midnight on Thursday, however, Trump tweeted that he would only rejoin the TPP if he could negotiate a “substantially better” deal than the pre-existing one.
Trump was “bullish” about his request, Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.), who attended the meeting, told The Washington Post.
Kudlow said he was taken aback by the abruptness of the request.
“This whole trade thing has exploded,” Kudlow told The New York Times on Thursday. “There’s no deadline. We’ll pull a team together, but we haven’t even done — I mean, it just happened a couple hours ago.”
Members of the trade pact, meanwhile, showed little enthusiasm for the possible shift in stance.
“We’ve got a deal” already, Steven Ciobo, Australia’s trade minister, said Friday. “I can’t see that all being thrown open to appease the United States.” Yoshihide Suga, Japan’s chief cabinet secretary, also warned of the difficulties associated with renegotiating.
Trump withdrew from the deal ― which he said was “pushed by special interests who want to rape our country” ― three days after entering office. He floated the possibility of re-entering under the right conditions earlier this year at the World Economic Forum.