President Donald Trump began his first full working week in office by fulfilling a key campaign pledge and withdrawing the US from the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade deal through an executive order. The 12-nation pact was vital to his predecessor Barack Obama’s ‘pivot’ to Asia. President Obama sold the TPP as a major initiative which would allow the US to compete with China in building commercial relations in the Asia-Pacific region. Mr Trump repeatedly lambasted the TPP during his presidential campaign, calling it a “potential disaster” and arguing that it would threaten American manufacturing. He remarked that his administration had done a “great thing for the American worker” by withdrawing from it. In his inaugural speech, Mr Trump also claimed that the US had “made other countries rich” while undermining its own prosperity.
John McCain, a Republican senator from Arizona, called the executive order a “serious mistake” which he says will create an opportunity for China to take the reigns of global commerce. He also stated that the withdrawal was “sending a troubling signal of American disengagement in the Asia-Pacific region at a time we can least afford it.” Eswar Prasad, a former China expert at the International Monetary Fund has similarly criticised Mr Trump for “undercut[ting] US credibility in multilateral negotiations and hand[ing] China a golden opportunity to increase its economic and geopolitical influence in Asia and beyond.”
Japan and Australia have expressed their confidence in going forward with the TPP. Shinzo Abe, the Japanese Prime Minister, told his parliament that he would continue to try and persuade Mr Trump to join the deal. Steven Ciobo, the Australian trade minister said that the TPP is a “good deal” for Australia, even without the US.