Trump vows in YouTube message to withdraw from TPP 'on day one'

AFP , Tuesday 22 Nov 2016

FILE - In this Nov. 9, 2016 file photo, President-elect Donald Trump speaks during a rally in New York (Photo: AP)

Donald Trump said Monday the United States would signal its withdrawal from the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade pact on his first day in the White House, one of six immediate steps aimed at "putting America first."

The Republican billionaire -- who for 10 days has been sounding out cabinet picks at his Trump Tower offices in New York -- made the pledge in a short video message.

The 70-year-old property tycoon outlined a list of priorities for his first 100 days and executive actions to be taken "on day one" -- on half a dozen issues from trade to immigration, national security and ethics -- in a push to "reform Washington and rebuild our middle class."

"My agenda will be based on a simple core principle: putting America first," said the president-elect, whose campaign tapped the anger of working-class Americans who feel left behind by globalization. It singled out trade deals such as the TPP as key culprits.

"On trade, I am going to issue our notification of intent to withdraw from the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a potential disaster for our country," said Trump, who takes office January 20.

"Instead, we will negotiate fair bilateral trade deals that bring jobs and industry back onto American shores," he said.

Both the 12-nation TPP -- signed in February but not yet in force -- and the 1994 North American Free Trade Agreement featured heavily in the brutal White House race. Trump said they harmed the US economy and jobs and many see his victory as a repudiation of ever-deeper commercial ties.

Trump's populist election platform called for scuttling the TPP -- President Barack Obama's signature trade initiative which still needs approval from the Republican-dominated Congress -- as well as for renegotiating NAFTA.

Asian leaders have been scrambling to save the trade pact.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said that "TPP without the United States would be meaningless."

The Japanese leader told reporters in Buenos Aires that the 12 TPP leaders who met in Lima on Saturday did not discuss putting the deal into effect without the US.

Matthias Helble, a research economist at the Asian Development Bank Institute in Tokyo, said Trump's announcement that bilateral trade deals would replace TPP "comes at a high cost."

"The outcome of ten years of hard-fought negotiations has been jettisoned," Helble said.

"The only glimmer of hope is that Trump is not fully abandoning the idea of trade opening."

Trump's pledge to pull out of the deal was one of six points on which he promised immediate executive action -- which he can take without Congressional approval.

Trump said he would direct the Department of Labor to investigate abuses of visa programs "that undercut the American worker."

On energy, he pledged to boost the oil and gas sector and bring back coal.

Trump also said he would ask defense officials to create plans to protect the US "from cyber-attacks and all other form of attacks."

Sticking to his central pledge to cut government red tape, he promised "a rule which says that for every one new regulation, two old regulations must be eliminated."

Though his own transition team includes several lobbyists, the Republican also promised "a five-year ban on executive officials becoming lobbyists after they leave the administration."

There was no mention in the message of some of Trump's biggest campaign promises -- notably his pledge to build a wall along the Mexican border, deport millions of immigrants, restrict Muslim immigration and repeal the Obamacare health care law.

The video was issued as the stream of would-be appointees continued at his New York headquarters. The day's talk focused on the possible nomination of retired general James "Mad Dog" Mattis as secretary of defense.

Despite the 66-year-old Marine's renowned frankness -- "Be polite, be professional, but have a plan to kill everyone you meet" -- he enjoys warm support in Washington and should sail through confirmation.

After Mattis, Trump's other choices may prove more complicated, such as that for secretary of state. This is reportedly between former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney and former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani, both of whom met Trump over the weekend at his golf club in New Jersey.

After meeting potential hires, Trump hosted private talks with a group of top US news anchors and executives -- with whom he repeatedly feuded during the campaign.

Trump also suggested that Nigel Farage, the co-founder of the nationalist UK Independence Party, should become Britain's ambassador to the US.

"Many people would like to see @Nigel_Farage represent Great Britain as their Ambassador to the United States," the Republican tweeted. "He would do a great job!"

Late on Tuesday or early on Wednesday, Trump is to fly to his Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida to take a "brief" Thanksgiving holiday break with his family.

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