US President Donald Trump is known for his sharp U-turns and he has repeated the act once again by rejecting the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) for the second time after expressing an intention of joining it recently.
Trump signed an executive order to pull the US out of the 12-member TPP soon after assuming office last year to fulfil his presidential promise. According to him, the US would protect its workers' and farmers' interests by withdrawing from the Barack Obama era pact which was never ratified by the Congress.
Last week, Trump indicated he might reopen talks on the trade pact. New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern had cautioned that the agreement would have to be renegotiated if the US wanted to get back into it.
Trump, who met his Japanese counterpart Shinzo Abe on Tuesday in Florida, said he would not change his original decision which was about not joining the TPP.
"Too many contingencies"
Trump explained his stand in a tweet saying even if US's allies Japan and South Korea wanted it to return to TPP, he didn't have a positive take on the deal.
"Too many contingencies and no way to get out if it doesn't work. Bilateral deals are far more efficient, profitable and better for OUR workers. Look how bad WTO is to U.S.," Trump tweeted.
Australia's mixed response
Australia's Trade & Investment Minister Steven Ciobo said Canberra was open to Washington's rejoining the pact and that the remaining 11 countries wouldn't prefer wholesale changes in the deal, Australia's news.com.au said. Ciobo said the US's return to the TPP fold would have both positive and negative impacts. He was particularly conservative over the pharmaceutical patent issue, saying Australia would not buy a situation whereby its pharmaceutical benefits schemes or the pricing of drugs in Australia would be affected by America's re-entry.
Japan and Malaysia also backed Australia's position against a renegotiation of the deal if the US was making a return.
Trump, who is in an aggressive mood on trade this year and has taken a ruthless stand to protect America's trade interests especially against China, asked his trade advisers to assess the TPP afresh.
Trump was of the opinion that the US could weigh rejoining the deal if it improved. Experts believed he was under pressure from the Republicans of the farm states who were worried that the president's protectionist policies triggering a trade war with China would harm the interests of the US's rural parts. The president was thus forced to review his stand on TPP.