25 GOP senators urge Trump to restart TPP trade talks, a deal he called a ‘disaster’

By Heather Long

President Trump speaks during a meeting with lawmakers about trade policy at the White House on Feb. 13. (Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post).

Twenty-five Republican senators, including Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn (R-Tex.), sent President Trump a letter Friday asking him to “re-engage with the Trans-Pacific Partnership.” It’s the latest attempt by Republican lawmakers to get Trump to take a softer stance on trade, even though his administration is gearing up to erect more trade barriers. Trump withdrew from the TPP in his first week in office after calling the trade deal a “disaster” and a “rape of our country” during his presidential campaign.

“We encourage you to work aggressively to secure reforms that would allow the United States to join the agreement,” the senators wrote. “Increased economic engagement with the 11 nations currently in TPP has the potential to substantially improve the competitiveness of U.S. businesses, support millions of U.S. jobs, increase U.S. exports, increase wages, fully unleash America’s energy potential, and benefit consumers.”

There is a sharp divide between congressional Republicans and the Trump administration on how to handle trade. Trump blasted America’s trade deals during his campaign and vowed he would either renegotiate many deals or scrap them, but many senators believe harsh action on trade would backfire, causing the loss of U.S. jobs and businesses.

The GOP letter was sent on the same day that Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross released a report recommending that the president heavily restrict steel and aluminum imports with a large tariff or quota. Ross said the high levels of steel and aluminum imports “impair the national security” and need to be reduced. Trump has until mid-April to decide what to do about steel and aluminum, a separate issue from the TPP, but many of the nations involved in the TPP would be affected by …read more