What Donald Trump thinks of the TPP

As His Hairness captapults to the front of the Republican pack, a look at his views on the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement.

See also: Editor’s Insight: Money stakes rise as Trump confirms front runner status

In early June, as President Obama’s bid for trade authority pushed the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement into US mainstream for the first time, it mattered little what Donald Trump thought.

But since that time, a series of controversial remarks has catapulted The Donald to the top of the heap of Republican presidential hopefuls.

A CNN/ORC poll released Sunday puts Trump on 18%, or three points ahead of nearest contender Jeb Bush in the crowded Republican field.

A NBC/Marist poll gives Bush the edge overall, but gives Trump a seven-point lead in New Hampshire and puts him just two points behind Bush in Iowa – both crucial states as they are among the earliest to vote in the primary race.

For better or worse, His Hairness is in with a shot of winning the Republican nomination, or at the very least staying in the race long enough to influence policy debates. Rupert Murdoch seems to think he’s a clown but Murdoch’s own Fox News is giving Trump a lot of support air time.

So, what does Trump think of the TPP?

Not much.

“The new trade deal is a disaster,” he told the South Carolina Freedom Summit in Greenville, South Carolina in May.

Other countries would use currency manipulation to dupe the US, and domestic jobs would be lost under the TPP, he said.

The comments aren’t surprising. Despite enjoying support from the Tea Party (ACT-like) wing of the Republican Party, Trump has consistently taken a populist/protectionist line on trade.

His position on the TPP puts him at odds with most Republicans in Congress (most Democrats voted against giving President Obama trade authority; the measure only squeaked through because Republicans overwhelmingly supported it).

And it’s a sharp contrast to TPP booster Jeb Bush, who  has criticised Democrat frontrunner Hillary Clinton for what he calls her wavering support for the controversial trade deal.

Despite the American political elite’s avowed support for free trade, the TPP – entering some of its final negotiations in Hawaii this week – is still more of a trade agreement than a free trade pact. It seems the crucial topic of US barriers to New Zealand agricultural exports remains unresolved. 

A deal on dairy under the TPP ‘simply isn’t there yet,’ Trade Minister Tim Groser said over the weekend.

TPP proponents say the controversial trade agreement — which has been under negotiation since 2005 — will wrap up shortly. That's a familiar tune. TPP boosters have been saying it's six months away for about two years now.

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